BAGHDAD - Iraqi Army M1A1 Tank Familiarization Course cadre are preparing to instruct and operate their own M1A1 program at the Besmaya Combat Training Center with assistance from United States Forces-Iraq.
The Iraqi cadre are confident, and believe they are ready, as they have many years of experience and are currently assisting in M1A1 Familiarization course instruction.
"The Iraqi Army cadre have the required experience," said Iraqi Army Sgt. Maj. Imad Khalid Madhosh, BCTC sergeant major. "The Ministry of Defense will support them fully."
We will keep training, instructing and managing the M1A1 program, said Iraqi Army Warrant Officer Ali Hamza Ruda, a member of the West Wing Armor School cadre.
"I wish that they could stay here, because the instructors have a lot of information about the tank and the ranges," Ali Hamza said. "But, when they do leave, we will maintain the same program."
The 21 members of the IA cadre have been training on M1A1 tanks and the Advanced Gunnery Training System. The AGTS is a large-scale apparatus that takes crew members through computer-generated action scenarios.
There are two AGTS systems at the BCTC, the newest of which is to stay with the Iraqi Army for future M1A1 training.
The cadre recognize the benefits of training with the new AGTS devices, such as improvements in the thermal imagery system, said Iraqi Army Warrant Officer Essam Sadoon Salman, a member of the West Wing Armor School cadre. "We wish to have some of our new Iraqi M1A1s, to use and to practice with."
Essam refers to the 140 M1A1 tanks the Government of Iraq purchased for the Iraqi Army through a foreign military sales agreement with the United States.
The tanks are currently being prepared for fielding in the Iraqi Army's 9th Mechanized Division, which is headquartered at Forward Operating Base Hammer near the BCTC.
Additionally, M1A1 fielding and storage facilities are being built at the BCTC to accommodate 80 tanks.
The M1A1 is one of the best tanks in use today said Ali Hamza, who has been a tank instructor for 29 years. "It's easy to use. All of the familiarization class graduates left happy and anticipate using the tank in the field."
As Iraqi Army cadre assist in training Soldiers in the familiarization course, they gain increased experience of live-fire range operations. This is of great value as they will eventually assume sole control of training operations.
The cadres have been working closely with ITAM-Army and Tank Familiarization Course instructors for 20 months. They are graduates of a previous M1A1 tank familiarization course and were selected for their roles based on their distinguished performance in their course.
To date, 462 Iraqi Army Soldiers have graduated the tank familiarization class.
"So many Iraqi Army Soldiers have been trained in the M1A1 program," Imad said. "The M1A1 tank program is the best thing that has ever happened to Iraq. It's 100-percent good training."
Ali Hamza stressed the importance of maintaining the course high standard of instruction.
"The instructor's impact on society is greater than the doctor's impact on society," Ali Hamza said. "If I make a mistake, I will destroy a whole generation of tankers.
"I am prepared and at a high level right now to lead and instruct, but I need to improve my skills all the time," Ali Hamza said. "Learning has a beginning, but doesn't have an end.
"My ambition is to go above and beyond my duty," Ali Hamza said.
Editor's note: Menegay is a member of the Ohio Army National Guard's 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment attached to the U.S. Forces-Iraq Deputy Commanding General for Advising and Training Public Affairs Office.