AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq - American paratroopers taught Iraqi soldiers how to call in fire from armed helicopters to neutralize targets in a live-fire exercise here May 21.

Fire support specialists with 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist), trained scouts with the Iraqi Army on how to integrate air and ground forces by calling in rocket and machine-gun fire on ground targets from OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters operated by pilots of Task Force Saber, Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division.

Integrating air and ground assets is a core competency for a standing army, according to Maj. Douglas Hayes, operations officer for 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, the primary artillery component of 1/82 AAB.

"An army first and foremost needs to protect its borders against external threats," said Hayes. "This starts to build the foundation of a capability that they have not had, at least for a while - understand the procedures for marking their location and that of the target, and how to convey that to aircraft."

Twelve IA scouts and their platoon leader, 2nd Lt. Mohammad, all from 27th Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, based in nearby Baghdadi, completed two days of classroom training prior to the live-fire exercise, said Staff Sgt. James Giovanni, noncommissioned officer in charge of the training.

The Kiowa helicopters fired rockets and .50 caliber machine guns in dozens of runs at a firing range target just outside Al Asad Air Base, in daylight and dark, said Giovanni.

Mohammad, who once served in intelligence in Saddam's army, said that, with American support, the Iraqi army was gaining competency at an accelerated rate.

"The army was very strong under Saddam, but Saddam was no good," said Mohammad. "It will take 20 years to build our army as strong as Saddam's without American support, but with the Americans, it is taking far less time."

Sgt. 1st Class Zachary Moon, targeting NCO for 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, one of 1/82 AAB's two infantry battalions, said that training a foreign army was actually good for his junior Soldiers.

"We have guys here from Bravo and Charlie Company fire support teams who are very experienced controlling aircraft, both in-theater and in training in the rear," said Moon. "It's a great opportunity for them to teach what they know."

Once an observer-controller at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Moon said the training here closely followed Army doctrine.

"The training out here is really quite good," he said. "Incorporating Iraqis into the training actually makes the training better for our guys because it makes them have to teach and explain through the interpreters. They have to be very clear and concise.

"It really makes them step up and not make any mistakes in their instructions," he said.
The Iraqi scouts were engaged in the exercise and asked many questions, said Sgt. Max Lewis, a forward observer with 1-504th PIR.

"Today, we taught them how to properly conduct five-line [call for fire] procedures; the different types of markings for friendly and enemy positions for both day and nighttime," said Lewis, who was on his third deployment with the Army.

"This is the first time I've ever worked with a national army of the country I deployed to. It's been really good for me too," he said.

During the training, 27th IA Brigade commander, staff Brig. Gen. Adnon Aubaid Mushin Rashid, called Mohammad to check on his platoon's progress and to ensure the lieutenant had kept all the training documentation for future reference, said Mohammad.

"We are very proud to be here," said Cpl. Khalid Hamed al Abaydi, a four-year veteran with the brigade, from Hit.

"My goal is to fight the terrorists, even if I risk my life," said Khalid. "I want to live in peace. We want to feel like human beings, like people do in other countries."

The overall mission for 1/82 AAB, as nested with United States Division - Center, is to advise and assist the Iraqi army in all aspects of professionalization, said Hayes.

Air-ground integration is a capability that's needed for an army to continue to grow and to succeed, he said.

"That's why we're here," said Hayes; "to help them out with that."

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