BAGHDAD - As the Iraqi Army continues to train while fighting an insurgency, battle tested Soldiers are relocated away from the fight in order to perfect their skills and ensure success in battle.
Soldiers with 2nd Company, Commando Battalion, 11th Iraqi Army Division based out of Joint Security Station Old Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, conducted urban training operations at Camp Taji in late December.
During the exercise's final training event, the commandos conducted a live-fire, building-clearance exercise with guidance from United States Forces-Iraq Soldiers. The live-fire exercise served as the culminating event for an 18-day Counter-Terrorism Course.
Soldiers from the U.S. Army's Company B, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment advised the Iraqi commandos by providing instruction in room clearing, urban tactics and fire team exercises.
The live-fire exercises instill confidence in the Iraqi Soldiers, and helps to prove what they can do, said U.S. Army Capt. Eric C. Smith, commander of Co. B, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt.
A number of Iraqi Army Soldiers sign up for service, go through a brief basic training and go straight into counter-insurgency operations, said Smith a native of Milwaukee.
"It's brutal," he said. "A lot of these guys have watched their friends die; they've fought for years. They don't get a chance to go home sometimes because the mission calls. This is a vote of confidence to them that, yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel, that they are capable of doing room clearing."
Iraqi Army Sgt. Amir Ali Hammad of 2nd Company, Commando Battalion, 11th Iraqi Army Division was shot three times during a 2007 terrorist attack in Ramadi. However, this has not diminished his desire to serve his country as he continues to fight the insurgency.
"I will continue to rebuild Iraq, until my last breath I will always keep fighting," Amir said. "There are a lot of people who need protection. We'll follow the insurgents everywhere they go."
The 11th uses its commandos as a maneuver strike element to seize high-value targets, such as individuals or weapons caches.
The Iraqi Army is focused on conducting pinpoint surgical operations, Smith said.
"If you don't have fire teams that are competent and you don't have squads that are competent, then you don't have the ability to project force inside a volatile area," Smith said.
While working with the Iraqi Army commandos, the 1-18th'focus is to provide a training foundation from which Iraqi Army leaders can work from in the future.
"They know a lot about combat. This unit was capable of clearing or seizing a target before we began training, but we're providing them a framework in which they understand what it means to train," Smith said. "This is how we do this, building blocks first. We work through marksmanship, short range marksmanship, room clearing at the fire team level, hallways, stairwells, and then you graduate to squad level, and then you start throwing little things in like enemy personnel searches."
The live-fire shoot house exercise is very important to the Commando Battalion's mission, Amir said.
The mission is to defend Iraq from evil against all terrorists, capture them and get them to the judge, said Iraqi Army Sgt. Hasan Ali Ashour, an instructor with 2nd Company, Commando Battalion, 11th Iraqi Army Division.
"Terrorists destroy any neighborhood they go to," Hasan said. "A lot of families have been hurt and displaced. The important thing is to provide for the security and safety of local nationals. When we provide the security and safety for people, then they will start working with us."
Soldiers of the 11th Commandos said that they are like a family, even though they come from different backgrounds from different parts of Iraq.
"Even if we are from different provinces, when we're working as a team, we're all one," Hasan said. "Our team is an example to other people in Iraq of how people can come together for the betterment of our country; we're working as one to rebuild Iraq. We defend our country. We will continue fighting for the Iraqi people, because Iraq is in our blood."
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.