CAMP RAMADI, Iraq (Feb. 1, 2010) -- Iraqi troops demonstrated their mortar skills to U.S. counterparts during a live-fire exercise in eastern Al Anbar province Jan. 27, aimed at moving them closer to self sufficiency.

The mortarmen, from 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, fired live mortar rounds at the training exercise with paratroopers of 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division (Advise and Assist). It was a hands-on event that many of the Iraqi mortarmen found to be a critical part of the multi-day training event with the Americans.

"This training is very useful," said Sgt. Safaa Hussein Ali, an IA mortarman. "It is the first time we have shot live rounds."

The mortar training was one of several competencies ordered by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, said Brig. Gen. Adel Abbas, commander of the Iraqi brigade. American paratroopers have been training the Iraqi mortarmen since August.

"Our forces are experiencing change since working with American forces, and the training our soldiers are getting from American Soldiers is very good," said Adel.

The training included putting the mortar tube into action, correctly aligning the sights and aiming the mortar, as well as using the proper commands associated with mortar use; and some training the Iraqi mortarmen hadn't experienced before.

"The partnered live-fire exercise was a great opportunity for our IA counterparts to not only see and participate in a live fire, but also to plan one," said 1st Lt. Charles F. Sexton, a platoon leader for the U.S. Soldiers.

Sexton said there were some issues they had to iron out to ensure the training even got off the ground.

"A major challenge leading up to the live-fire exercise was the location," Sexton said. "Luckily, we were able to rely on the IA to find us a location far from any inhabited areas."

The advise-and-assist brigade plans to continue training with the Iraqi army for the duration of the deployment.

(Spc. Kayleigh J. Cannon writes for the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division)