CAMP TAJI, Iraq - There has been a 180-degree turnaround in the Iraqi noncommissioned officer corps since 2005, according to the top enlisted Soldier at U.S. Army Forces Command in Atlanta.

Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis M. Carey, FORSCOM command sergeant major, spent two days touring Iraq, and on a trip to Camp Taji's Iraqi NCO academy Dec. 16, he said he has seen vast improvement in just three years.

"The Iraqi army has made great strides in empowering the Iraqi NCO," Carey said.

Carey, a Phoenixville, Penn. native, was the command sergeant major for the XVIII Airborne Corps during its tour as Multi-National Corps - Iraq in 2005.

He, along with the current XVIII Airborne Corps and MNC-I command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph R. Allen, spent the better part of the day visiting with Iraqi instructors at the NCO Academy - getting a feel for how the academy works and what lies on the horizon for the NCOs.

The duo visited firing ranges and urban terrain training sites before linking up with a handful of Iraqi instructors at the academy.

"Do you find your soldiers learn better in the classroom, or outside hands on'" Carey asked the group.

The reply from one NCO was that "some learn better and faster than others. We prefer to do both. We train them in the classroom before going out into the field."

Carey asked a variety of other questions of the NCOs before ending with: "What can we as Americans do to help you do this better'" He garnered rounds of laughter from the instructors when he responded to his own question by asking "get out of your way and let you work'"

The reply was "La, la, la" meaning 'no, no, no.'

"The Americans have been a great help to us," said Iraqi Warrant Officer Adel, the
commandant of the academy. "If we need help, they help us. When we don't, they let us do the things we are here to do."

An Iraqi warrant officer is the equivalent of a U.S. Army sergeant major.

"Our Soldiers here in Iraq who are teaching the Iraqi army are doing a fabulous job," Carey said. "It's great to come out here and see this firsthand. I'd do it once a month if I could."

The visit brought a smile to all the Iraqi instructors, and they thanked Carey for taking his time to see them.

"We are very proud of what we do in the army, and we know we are getting better," Adel said. "Trips like these, when a command sergeant major like Command Sergeant Major Carey comes to visit, it lets us know that what we are doing is important. It shows that he cares about our training."

Carey and Allen finished their trip to Camp Taji with a briefing from U.S. Army military transition team troops before having lunch with both Iraqi and U.S. instructors from the academy.