Task Force Marne Teams Up To Build Iraqi Army's 'Backbone'
Master Sgt. Michael Howle, commandant of the new Task Force Marne NCO Academy (right), discusses plans for the Academy with Multi-National Division - Center Command Sergeant Major Jesse L. Andrews Jr. (left) and Master Sgt. Stanley Hood, deputy commandant, Jan. 1 at FOB Kalsu, Iraq.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 7, 2008) -- Aca,!A"No one is more professional than I,Aca,!A? states the U.S. ArmyAca,!a,,cs NCO Creed, and noncommissioned officers at Forward Operating Base Kalsu are gearing up to instill the same pride and professionalism in their Iraqi Army counterparts.

The Task Force Marne NCO Academy at FOB Kalsu will welcome its first class of Iraqi Soldiers Jan. 14.

Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre going to be teaching them everything Aca,!" combat orders, combat medical, map-reading, mounted patrols, dismounted patrols, weapons, rules of engagement, duties and responsibilities,Aca,!A? said Master Sgt. Michael Howle, the new training facilityAca,!a,,cs commandant. Aca,!A"The instructors who were selected are supposed to be some of the best NCOs we have here.Aca,!A?

Preparations for the academy have been underway for approximately five weeks, during which time the NCOs have built the facility from the ground up.

Aca,!A"We started this from scratch, nada, zero,Aca,!A? Master Sgt. Howle said. Aca,!A"A month ago, we had eight empty tents. Now we have four sleep tents, three classrooms and an office tent. WeAca,!a,,cve also set up a squad training exercise lane on a one-and-a-half-mile stretch of our perimeter road, and weAca,!a,,cre having a shoothouse built.Aca,!A?

The classes will be small at first, with 20 Soldiers in each of the three platoons, Master Sgt. Howle said. Subsequent classes will increase in size, with the largest number of attendees projected at 180. Six instructors will be assigned to each platoon.

Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre building this place up for the Iraqis to take it over,Aca,!A? said Master Sgt. Kenneth Romine, the NCO AcademyAca,!a,,cs chief of operations. Aca,!A"Out of every class, weAca,!a,,cll take three outstanding students to stay here and teach.Aca,!A?

Training Iraqis to take over is a driving force for the NCOs running and teaching at the academy.

Aca,!A"Since this project kicked off, everyoneAca,!a,,cs picked up a whole lot,Aca,!A? said Staff Sgt. Mark Hooks, one of the programAca,!a,,cs instructors. Aca,!A"They all know that if we pull this off, we can hand it over and get out of here quicker.Aca,!A?

He and the other instructors realize that the goal may not come to fruition right away, but they are remaining optimistic.

Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs going to take time to get their NCOs to the level weAca,!a,,cre at,Aca,!A? said medical instructor Sgt. 1st Class James Phillips, who volunteered to teach at the NCO Academy for that very reason. Aca,!A"The sooner we can get them trained to teach their own people, the sooner we can get out of here.Aca,!A?

During their last week of preparation before the first Iraqi Soldiers arrive, the Academy has been conducting full dress rehearsals, covering everything from physical training to classroom material. Multi-National Division Aca,!" Center Command Sergeant Major Jesse L. Andrews Jr. paid a New YearAca,!a,,cs Day visit to the NCOs there to check on their progress.

Aca,!A"YouAca,!a,,cre doing a great job; I couldnAca,!a,,ct be more pleased,Aca,!A? Andrews told Master Sgt. Howle, Master Sgt. Romine and deputy commandant Master Sgt. Stanley Hood. Aca,!A"I really appreciate the hard work and dedication youAca,!a,,cre putting in here.Aca,!A?

The cadre of the Academy has been training hard to be able to effectively impart the knowledge and experience theyAca,!a,,cve gained over their years as NCOs, and are looking forward to pointing their new students in the right direction.

Aca,!A"This is a good step for the Iraqi Army,Aca,!A? said instructor Sgt. 1st Class Gerald Newton. Aca,!A"Once they get their NCO Corps established, theyAca,!a,,cll be much better off.Aca,!A?

Command Sgt. Maj. Andrews shared a similar sentiment.

Aca,!A"Over the years, it has been acknowledged that the NCO Corps is the backbone of our Army,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"Once the Iraqi NCOs get that, theyAca,!a,,cll get a better grip on their worth. TheyAca,!a,,cve got the combat experience Aca,!" now they need the institutional knowledge. YouAca,!a,,cve got to have both.Aca,!A?

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