KIRKUK, Iraq -- As the Iraqi Army develops its capabilities to support the mission of providing for security for the population of Iraq, it is necessary for Iraqi Army soldiers to gain knowledge of new skills.

Soldiers from the 46th Brigade, 12th Iraqi Army Division traveled to Forward Operating Base McHenry, near Hawijah in the Kirkuk province of Iraq, July 22, to continue learning the fundamentals of one of the most critical jobs they are taking over from the U.S. -- route clearance.

The U.S. Military supports requests by the Iraqi Security Forces to help with removal of Improvised Explosive Devices and other dangers from heavily traveled roads, to ensure they are safe for Iraqi drivers and convoys.

"The reason for training Iraqi soldiers on route clearance is because they will be taking over the job," said Staff Sgt. James Cantrell, a squad leader with Company E, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

"We want them to know what IEDs look like and how to identify them," he continued. "The best way to detect an IED is to really know what you are looking for."

The training received here consisted of a practical exercise requiring IA soldiers to draw on skills previously obtained during training to identify hoax IEDs designed to look like a real one. They began by traversing the course once on foot, then again while mounted in vehicles.

The training was part of a nine-day course to develop the basic skills of route clearance. Once training is complete, the soldiers will receive certificates allowing them to participate in U.S. Military route clearance operations.

"After they [IA soldiers] are certified, they are going to be added to our convoys," said Cantrell. "We want to have them take the lead in all route clearance operations."

Although the IA soldiers being trained this day are nearly halfway through their course, their U.S. trainers have been impressed with their level of progress.

"They have performed even better than I expected," said Sgt Kervin Catillo, a Copperas Cove, Texas, native and a combat engineer with Co. E. "They come to us with a lot of questions and are very interested."

According to 1st Lt. Hussein Jasam Muhammed, the training so far has been excellent.

Hussein is responsible for leading the IA soldiers during the training.

"These are skills that I want my soldiers to have," he continued. "They have learned a lot during this class, especially during the practical exercises."

During the final two days of the training, these IA soldiers will apply all the knowledge they have gained from the training during a final realistic route course.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16