By Spc. Creighton Holub, 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div.April 21, 2009
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq - The Iraqi Army's 10th Division sent out their ground troops and air support assets to conduct the first large-scale combined-arms live-fire exercise, nicknamed Operation "Lion's Roar" in southern Iraq April 19.
"They did outstanding," said Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, the 10th Mountain Division's commander, said about the Iraqis' efforts during the training event. "The Iraqi Army is here to defend its citizens and protect their borders."
A platoon of Iraqi Soldiers landed near the target area on a mock battle field in Iraqi Air Force helicopters to capture fictitious criminals. They moved forward in wedge formations while relying on cover from the terrain.
Acting on a call for fire from Iraqi fire control experts, the American 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division 'Long Knives,' launched Excalibur artillery rounds from approximately 13 kilometers away, while an Iraqi and Long Knife mortar crew fired 120mm high-explosive mortars from adjacent to the air insertion point.
The 41st Fires Brigade fired their Multiple Launch Rocket System from Forward Operating Base Garry Owen, while U.S. Air Force fighter jets dropped a 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition for the explosive finale.
"It was a good exercise for us," said Staff Brig. Gen. Jabar, the 10th Division's deputy commander. "The Long Knife Brigade gave us every kind of support we needed. We have good social and professional relations with the (4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div.). Our Soldiers have been trained perfectly by the Long Knives."
The senior noncommissioned officer operating the mortar teams said his crew has been training their Iraqi counterparts for the majority of this current deployment.
"They're going in steps to where we will be observing them doing everything," said Master Sgt. Daniel Pilewski, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment's mortar platoon leader.
Although the Long Knives administered the mortars, it was the Iraqis who put the steel on target.
"We are capable and able to defend our citizens and our country," Jabar added. "We can use cannons and aircraft - it's just a matter of buying and training on them."
The training event reinforced the IA's capability, and instilled confidence in the individual soldiers.
"I feel the security situation it better in our region," said Iraqi Army Pvt. Ali Helal Mayah, a Soldier from the 10th IA Div. "We have been able to mitigate accidents while becoming a stronger army. This training is making us stronger and the Long Knife Brigade is giving us new skills."
The Iraqi troops have been mentored by the Long Knife Brigade's Soldiers since just after the American's took over for the previous Coalition forces in the tri-province area of Dhi Qar, Muthanna and Maysan provinces last June.
"It's probably a once-in-a-lifetime or generation chance to help another army develop their standards," said Staff Sgt. Randy Rice, the 2nd Bn., 7th Cav. Regt.'s mortar platoon sergeant.