By Sgt. Rebekah Malone, 225th Eng. Bde. PAO, MND-BMay 17, 2009
BAGHDAD - In the hot mid-day sun, Iraqi Army Soldiers stood proud in their protective gear as they prepared for a route clearance training mission, May 13 with their counterparts from the 515th Engineer Sapper Company, attached to the 225th Engineer Brigade, in the northeastern Baghdad district of Adhamiyah.
A sand table diagram made to scale charted the planned route with roads in bright colors exactly where the route clearance mission would take place as 1st Lt. Kyle Poppe of Polland, N.Y. explained the concept of the mission as more than 30 IA Soldiers prepared for their first mission in U.S. vehicles.
Lt. Col. Hatem Hameed, commander of the 11th Iraqi Army Engineer Regiment, told Brig. Gen. Owen Monconduit, commander of the 225th Engineer Brigade, that training is vital to preparing the IA engineers.
"We are ready and willing for any task that will make my training requirements," Hatem said, regarding training requirements before his equipment fielding is realized in June. "We always ask for more training, and this is a good opportunity."
With only a year in the Iraqi Army, Sgt. Bassam's eyes were wide open as the 515th Eng. Co., pulled onto the street near the regiment's headquarters in Adhamiyah. Curiosity and confidence, more than fear, exuded from the 21-year-old.
"Before this was a very bad area, now it has improved since the headquarters of the 11th IA came over," Bassam said.
Bassam asked the U.S. Soldiers questions about capabilities of the equipment, speed of the convoy and how they handled situations. Questions were then fired back at Bassam.
"What are tale-tell signs of IEDs you look for'" Sgt. Daniel Denny of Ridgecrest, N.C., asked through an interpreter.
Without hesitation, Bassam spouted off all the answers.
"That's pretty good!" Denny said.
Before long, the Soldiers exchanged stories about what they had experienced and discussed differences between the specialized roadside bomb hunting vehicle, the IA's Badger, and the U.S. version of the same vehicle, the Buffalo.
"This is the first time ever 3rd Platoon has taken Iraqi Soldiers in our vehicles," Poppe said. "They enjoyed it and allowed for them to see how we accomplish our mission. It's a good training opportunity for the IA Soldiers and it went well."
515th engineers have cleared roads of improvised explosive devices all over central Iraq for the past 13 months. And while they have conduct numerous training classes, this was the first time the IA engineers had ever been on the streets of Baghdad in the 515th Eng. Co.'s vehicles, watching U.S. techniques in action.
"The training is very useful for the IA to work together with the U.S. Army to see how they do their job," Bassam said. "We want to learn as much as we can to save lives of Iraqi civilians."