UMM QASR - The Iraqi Security Forces recently took their next step toward self-reliance with the delivery of the first of 140 M1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks purchased by the Iraqi government.

"We've offloaded the first batch of M1s," said Andreaus Elesky, a program manager for defense contractor General Dynamics working with the Iraqi Training and Advisory personnel at the bustling southern port of Umm Qasr.

Eleven tanks and one tank recovery vehicle were delivered to Umm Qasr. Iraqi flags adorned the turrets, alerting local residents to the fact that the heavy firepower being delivered was for their own government.

The M1 Abrams tank is a heavily armored, highly mobile tank that entered service in 1980. It is capable of firing a variety of high explosive, anti-tank, and anti-personnel rounds. There are also three mounts for heavy machine guns.

The procurement of these tanks is a major upgrade from the Russian, Yugoslavian and Chinese-made tanks the ISF is accustomed to as the M1 Abrams is more versatile, allowing Iraqi armor units to fight on the move.

Working with the U.S. and Iraqi governments, General Dynamics has been in the process of receiving, transporting and delivering the tanks to the Iraqis, Elesky said.

"Shipments will be coming in on a monthly basis," Elesky said.

The tanks were loaded from the ship directly onto heavy equipment transport trucks for delivery, said Matthew Berger, director of logistics and transportation for American United Logistics.

Altogether, 140 M1 Abrams will roll to the Mechanized Iraqi 9th Division's base near the Bezmaya range complex southeast of Baghdad.

In the past, there has been little to no maintenance management training on tanks. General Dynamics plans to change all of this by teaching Iraqi soldiers how to perform preventive maintenance, checks and services on their equipment, Elesky said.

While US Soldiers took no part in the acquisition and movement of the tanks, future joint training events are already being planned.

"We're helping them become a better-equipped and better-trained military," Elesky said.

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