Enduring mission: AMC to train Iraqi Army
December 7, 2011
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The Army Materiel Command's, Joint Base Workshop is one mission that is slated to remain after U.S. forces depart Iraq.
AMC is supporting the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, providing subject-matter experts to train the Iraqi Army on maintenance, repair and overhaul of U.S. Army tactical vehicles which they now own. The 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, based in Kuwait, provides administrative control of the mission.
The teams that are in place at Camp Taji, Iraq, are specialists from Army depots in Alabama, California and Texas. Ken Johnson supervises the trainers and advisors from Anniston Army Depot who oversee track vehicle overhaul processes and he has volunteered to stay on after the drawdown.
There are cultural differences and language barriers to overcome, but a clear focus on the mission keeps it all in perspective.
"It's a challenge, but you've just got to have a lot of patience," Johnson said, "They've got their own system and way of doing things."
The Iraqi Army is training its Soldiers to do work that is traditionally done by a civilian work force at depots in the U.S.
"Soldiers should know field maintenance. That's how the U.S. does it. Our Soldiers don't do overhaul, but the Iraqi Army has their Soldiers doing what our civilians do on these vehicles," Johnson said.
Connie Minton is a painter from Anniston who volunteered to come to Taji to train Iraqi Soldiers. She wasn't sure what to expect, as a woman training men, in this part of the world.
"The first day of training, one of the Soldiers pointed out that my ankle was showing, so I just made sure to wear long socks from then on and I do my best to respect their culture," said Minton. "But other than that I have had no issues. I feel like they learned a lot from me and they really have come a long way."
Many of the team found that the Iraqi's had very good maintenance equipment already in place, but just lacked the skills to use what they had.
"They had a million-dollar carousel paint booth, they just lacked the knowledge to use it. I showed them how to use it," said Minton.
This team of trainers managed to put the challenges in perspective and is determined to make it work.
"The best training would be to get their best students and bring them to the U.S. to work with us in our shops for a year. Then they could come back here and train the others," Johnson said.
AMC has supported the Joint Base Workshop since 2009 and has trained the Iraqi Army in small arms repair, Humvee and 5-ton truck overhaul and is currently conducting training on track vehicle overhaul. The current agreement with the Department of State continues into 2012.