By Kelley Lane-Sivley, USAG RedstoneJanuary 8, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- In order to provide the best support possible, it is not unusual for members of U.S. Army Security Assistance Command to travel to the nations it works with. On Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 they were a part of a historic conference when a Foreign Military Sales Program Management Review was held in Iraq for the first time.
Fifty people, military and civilian, flew from the United States to attend the PMR, including 13 from USASAC and its supporting life cycle management commands. Once they arrived, they joined 75 others from the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq and the Iraq Security Assistance Mission.
The attendees traveled by commercial carrier into Baghdad International Airport, then took CH-47 Chinook helicopters to downtown Baghdad in the heart of the
International Zone before being bused to their accommodations at Forward Operating Base Union III. The event site at the Black Hawk Conference Center is part of the former Aca,!A"Believer's PalaceAca,!A? complex.
During the conference, they met with other members of the U.S. security community and Iraqi military leadership. While their backgrounds were different, the goals expressed by conference speakers were similar.
Aca,!A"As senior leaders from the U.S. and Iraq spoke, each emphasized the need to continue to move the Iraq FMS processes toward full Iraqi ownership in advance of the
Dec. 31st, 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces,Aca,!A? Col. Timothy Aca,!A"MacAca,!A? McKernan, USASAC liaison to MNSTC-I, said. Aca,!A"Much of the discussions over the first two days centered around training the Iraqi representatives and ensuring they understand the FMS process so they are more effective in dealing with the U.S. government.Aca,!A?
The U.S. contingency included civilians, Army, Air Force and Navy representatives. The conference covered issues such as FMS program overviews, training and force development plans, above standard level of service issues, and
freight forwarder usage and benefits. Breakout sessions enabled Iraqis to discuss their issues directly with program case managers.
It was also a chance for both the Iraqis and the attendees to sit together and simply talk. While much of the conversation focused on FMS and training programs, there was also a chance to get to know each other as people. The shift in viewpoint was obvious over the five days.
Aca,!A"The first day of the conference Iraqis and Americans largely ate and socialized amongst themselves. By the end of the PMR, Americans and Iraqis shared lunch tables with their newfound friends and spoke of the things all free people speak,Aca,!A? McKernan said. Aca,!A"Love of families, a hope for a better future for the next generation, and a genuine hope for peace in Iraq and throughout the world was first and foremost on everyoneAca,!a,,cs minds.Aca,!A?
The bonding between people at the event coupled with the work accomplished fostered a renewed sense of purpose for USASAC employees. Some had never been to Iraq before and some had. All left with a deeper sense of the impact of their jobs on the Iraqi future.
Aca,!A"The conference was a wonderful opportunity to forge closer bonds with our Iraqi counterparts,Aca,!A? Betty Taylor, USAF security assistance program manager-Iraq, said. Aca,!A"It also gave me a greater appreciation of the conditions the Iraqis and MNSTC-I personnel deal with each day. The graciousness and resilience of the Iraqi people was truly heartwarming. I have a stronger commitment to my program knowing the people I am assisting. I am proud to have a role in helping rebuild this historical land.Aca,!A?
Due to the success of the event, others are being planned; and the next is tentatively scheduled for spring 2010.