TIKRIT - A new non-commissioned officer course in Tikrit graduated its first class of Iraqi soldiers from the 9th Battalion, Strategic Infrastructure Brigade on Wednesday.

The three-day course, established and taught by U.S. Soldiers from Contingency Operating Base Speicher, is targeted at improving the leadership skills of both SIB and Iraqi army NCOs.

The curriculum was tailored to meet the needs of the junior NCOs, involving a more hands-on approach to teaching various soldier skills, such as weapons maintenance. The original curriculum was aimed towards senior level leadership positions, and was delivered in a lecture format not suited for the real-world scenarios the NCOs were enacting.

"The students did very well with the hands-on style of teaching, and were very involved in the class," said Sgt. Matthew Chandler, an instructor and medic with Battery A, 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment. "Because of that, they can now do the things we taught them with confidence."

The U.S. Soldiers instructing the classes were impressed with the Iraqi NCOs' motivation and eagerness to learn.

"These are some very disciplined NCOs. They paid attention in class and demonstrated a willingness to learn what we had to share," said Sgt. 1st Class Martin Leyva, a battalion operations sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1-319th AFAR and the senior instructor at the school. "They were like sponges, soaking up everything we showed them, and they picked it up pretty quick."

The course covered a wide range of topics in its brief duration, such as medical and combat life saving techniques, weapons safety, and pre-combat checks and inspections of their equipment.

Many of the SIB soldiers previously received training from other Coalition Forces, and were familiar with the material being covered, said Leyva. That made it relatively easy for the U.S. Soldiers instructing the course to refine and expound upon the skills the Iraqi soldiers possess.

"We're trying to build upon the things they already know, from their experiences and the training they've already done, as well as tailor it to the equipment they have available," said Levya. "This training will prepare these NCOs to assist their officers by taking the initiative to use what they've learned, as well as train their own soldiers in the skills they were taught here."

The next class, for 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division soldiers, will be Feb. 5-8.