FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq (Army News Service, Aug. 18, 2008) -- Iraqi Army Soldiers are participating in the first Vanguard Brigade route clearance course in an effort to improve security in the Babil Province.

Soldiers from the 31st Brigade, 8th IA Division, began classes on Forward Operating Base Kalsu, July 20.

The Lionclaw Academy is a four-phase course that covers route clearance basics and how to properly maintain route clearance equipment.

"The importance of the academy is to increase security capabilities and give the Iraqi citizens a safe and secure place to live," said Lt. Col. Darryl McDowell, commander of 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division.

Prior to the creation of the Lionclaw Academy, Soldiers from 4-3 BSTB and Company E, 3rd Battalion, 7th Inf. Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, began discussing the possibility of creating a route clearance class for Iraqi Soldiers.

"We had been talking about doing some kind of Iraqi route clearance capability for a while," said Capt. Andrew Sanders, commander of Company E. "This is a great opportunity to work with our Iraqi counterpart and improve their capability as an Army with training they didn't have previously."

Discussions of a fully competent Iraqi route clearance class continued; eventually, the Soldiers of Company E took on the challenge of creating the program.

"We spent a lot of time developing the course of instruction and what it was going to look like as far as our partnership with the IA," said Sanders. "We developed a multi-staged training program designed to teach the basics to Iraqi Soldiers."

The exact curriculum and teaching techniques were finalized during the planning of Phase I of the academy.

"Phase I was to get the IA familiar with the equipment and the basic improvised explosive device fundamentals, and to get training with the explosive ordnance disposal team," said Frost. "They were taught about IED indicators, battle drills and how to conduct IED interrogations with the equipment."

Phase I taught the basic principles of patrolling and mission briefings, which prepared them for Phase II, said 1st Lt. Glen Frost, Company E.

"That way, when they came to us for the partnership, they were ready to develop missions with our guys and were ready to begin preparing for joint patrols," Frost said.

"First, IA Soldiers would come on the FOB and conduct rehearsals, and then they would conduct combined patrols with the U.S. Soldiers in the lead," Sanders said.

Phase III will focus on the IA leading operations and Coalition forces performing an advising role.

Once completed, IA Soldiers will start Phase IV, consisting of route clearance operations by the IA Soldiers out in the local area.

"I think that is the one area that the Iraqi Security Forces haven't really taken over," Frost said. "They are capable of raids and cordon and search all on their own, but the biggest threat is IEDs and (explosively formed penetrators.) For them to be able to have their own route clearance element focused solely on finding and destroying IEDs in the area will create maneuverability for other ISF and will help them protect the local population from IEDs."

Iraqi Soldiers are currently attending Phase II of the course.

IA Soldiers in the southern Baghdad area are also conducting route clearance training with Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). IA capabilities continue to expand throughout the Multi-National Division - Center area of operations.