E Troop leads the way as IA
October 16, 2009
- Soldiers from the 11th ACR role-play as Iraqi Army soldiers
- The NTC's "box" training area incorporates thousands of Soldiers and civilians to populate training villages
- Troopers role-playing as IA trains rotational units for their mission
FORT IRWIN, Calif. -- The sun hangs high over the village of Al Jaff as Iraqi Army Soldiers inspect their equipment before heading out on a presence patrol through town. Wakeel Awwal, or 1st Sgt., Al Samawi, removes his right glove and greets the U.S. Army patrol leader who will be supporting Al Samawi and his men.
Through a translator, the two soldiers hash out the details surrounding the day's mission. The U.S. patrol leader tells the Iraqi first sergeant that while making their way to the Iraqi Army compound, they had spotted a suspicious vehicle on the outskirts of Al Jaff. Al Samawi thanks the patrol leader for the information and shows him the route that the Iraqi Army plans to take through the village.
Al Samawi and his U.S. counterpart exit the building accompanied by their respective subordinate leaders. Al Samawi motions to his men by waving his arm towards an opening in the barbed-wire perimeter surrounding the compound yelling, "yalla yalla!" or "Let's go, move!" to his men.
The Iraqi Army troops walk single file outside of the wire and spread out into a wedge formation, each step brings them closer to the town as the patrol begins.
The U.S. Army squad follows behind.
Soldiers of E Troop, 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, demonstrated the Blackhorse Regiment's ability to operate as Iraqi Army during a situational training exercise at the National Training Center here Sept. 12.
Sgt. Dejuan C. Hardman (Al Samawi), an Akron, Ohio native, now a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, E Troop, said that being used to the hectic atmosphere surrounding the STX lanes in "the box" has helped him and his Soldiers show the rotational training units, or RTUs, what to do when under the stress of combat.
"We see this stuff every rotation and we know what's right and what's wrong," said Sgt. Hardman. "When they freeze up, we do the right thing. They can feed off of that, take bits and pieces of what we did, and use it for themselves when they deploy."
"During the missions we ran this morning, we set a great example for BLUFOR (the RTU)," said Sgt. Kevin L. Butts, a native of Gary, Ind., now a team leader with 1st Platoon, E Troop. "At first they were scattered, once they saw us get our focus, the BLUFOR flowed in. It just clicked."
During the exercise, Hardman's squad was the lead element of a patrol through Al Jaff, a training village at the NTC. The RTU put the Iraqi Army element in the lead to prepare for their support role when they deploy.
Being in the lead, the E Troop Soldiers could not only fulfill their obligation to train the RTU, but also train themselves.
"When we are out on rotation as IA, it is our opportunity to train as much as the RTUs," said Spc. Anthony K. Ganzler, a Sacramento, Calif., native, now a rifleman with 2nd Platoon, E Troop. "We get to keep the Infantry mentality."
Keeping the "Infantry mentality" is a sentiment echoed throughout E Troop. The Soldiers stay motivated and remain skilled in their profession by taking advantage of the RTU's rotations as training opportunities.
"Our Soldiers see what mistakes are made, they sit in on the After Action Reviews and know what they need to do to prepare themselves for deployment," Hardman said.
Not only does the role of Iraqi Army present an opportunity for E troop Soldiers to kick in doors, but it also allows Soldiers who haven't deployed to witness the importance of community relations overseas.
"Soldiers who come here for their first duty station know it's not all about killing the bad guy," said Hardman, who has deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. "You got to go out there, shake hands and give hugs."
Rotation after rotation, the Soldiers of E Troop are together in tents, connexes or wooden shacks out in the NTC's training area in the high Mojave Desert. The environment is setup to physically resemble that of Iraq or Afghanistan. The nature of rotational support also resembles a deployment in the bonds the Soldiers form during their time at Fort Irwin.
"Sixteen days out of the month we're in the box," Hardman said. "You're always around your Soldiers and you know them."
Even though the E Troop Soldiers will spend nearly half of their time at Fort Irwin in the field, they maintain a positive attitude and are passionate toward their mission.
"In the box, you get what you put in," Ganzler said, who has been with the unit since April 2008. "We go out, train, have fun with it, and come home."