KARBALA, Iraq (Army News Service, Oct. 27, 2009) -- Stretching across the desert is a newly created training area for the 8th Iraqi Army Division, where two platoons of the 32nd and 33rd IA Brigades participated in the Razazah Sands defensive live-fire range to become better prepared to conduct future combat operations.

The three-kilometer by 10-kilometer range was built by the 33rd IA Brigade Military Transition Team, 9th Engineer Battalion and 2nd Bn., 28th Infantry Regiment. Four months of planning made the range a reality.

"The purpose of this range is to assist the Iraqi Army with tactics and maneuvers, as well as showing them the different air assets they can use to defeat the enemy," said Maj. Jon K. Thiessen, maneuvers, fires and effects advisor, 33rd IA Bde., MiTT.

The exercise began with 120mm mortars providing indirect fire support to suppress the simulated enemy as each platoon negotiated the course. Soldiers navigated through the range, performed weapon checks and conducted mounted and dismounted target engagements.

Each platoon performed key tasks at six different areas of the range. Starting at the assembly area all the way to the trenches at the limit of advance, tasks such as executing basic troop-leading procedures, transmitting proper contact reports and maneuvering a squad tested the Iraqi Soldiers' abilities.

Loading and correcting weapon systems malfunctions, and performing simulated first aid while under direct fire also challenged the Iraqi platoons.

"We provided the IA with kinetic effects, such as air weapons teams and a fixed wing aircraft to show them how kinetic assets will aid them to kill or warn their enemies," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan W. Bishop, joint tactical air controller, 2nd Air Support Operations Squadron. "During the exercise, the IA had to request air assets with specific locations for the fighter plane to drop a 500 pound bomb to help defeat their enemy."

The IA withdrew from the range. After the bomb was dropped they went back out to clear the area. The platoon-sized element went over their experience in a review following the exercise, which helped to identify ways to improve.

"I believe we handled the exercise very well," said Iraqi army 2nd Lt. Sadiq Kittab Muhsen, a platoon commander, 33rd IA Bde. "The exercise helped us to train and increased our ability to attack and defend against our enemies."

Throughout the duration of the exercise, Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment helped provide security and safety to Soldiers performing the exercise.

"We made sure the trails were properly identified and the Iraqi Soldiers stayed within the boundaries of the range," said Pfc. Eli Foose, a cannon crewmember.

The range now belongs to the 8th IA Div. for training of all IA Soldiers, which will facilitate their professionalization as a combat force.

"Many of these Soldiers haven't had tactical hands-on training since the Iran and Iraq war," said Thiessen. "This range will help them to utilize their assets and improve their maneuvers, tactics and their overall defense against enemies, which makes them a stronger, more independent army."

(Pfc. Bethany L. Little writes for the 172nd Infantry Brigade)

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