By First Lt. Nathan McEwen, 2-13 Cav.February 24, 2010
AL AMARAH, Iraq (Feb. 24, 2010) -- In Maysan Province, more than 80 kilometers from the nearest major city, a group of brave Iraqi border guards stand on Iraq's eastern frontier, their every move observed by Iranian sentries a few hundred meters away.
These border guards from the 2nd Commando Battalion and the 3rd Battalion, 11th Brigade, Department of Border Enforcement, have taken the reins of their country's security and prepare for their mission with continuous training.
U.S. Soldiers of C Troop, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, and Border Transition Team Phoenix, regularly work with the guards to help them stay on top of the skills they need for their job.
One of the more successful programs has been a "train the trainer" course started in both battalions. With this program, U.S. Soldiers train a DBE guard on a specific task, making him the subject-matter expert for his battalion. That border guard can then travel throughout the battalion training his comrades regarding border security measures and techniques.
Once the Iraqi SME has given his class to the other border guards, the U.S. Soldiers from C Troop will usually step in and conduct spot-checks to ensure that all of the DBE guards have been trained properly.
Spc. Daniel Kennedy, from Decatur, Ill., a gunner for C Troop, is one of the Soldiers who works with 2nd Commandos Battalion.
"Once the Iraqi DBE are done training themselves, we work with shurta [border guards] to ensure that they fully understand what was being taught," said Kennedy. "We will usually have them teach us a little of what they have been taught, and it gives us a good idea of where they stand."
DBE guards are extremely interested in training themselves, said Staff Sgt. Scott Hethcote from Yuba City, Calif.
"The Iraqi DBE are taking a larger and larger role in training themselves while working to minimize the number of classes that we give them," said Hethcote, a platoon sergeant with C Troop.
"They are using us more as enablers now versus when we first arrived, and are really asking for help in teaching on topics they know very little about, or asking to use our additional assets for training aids," he said.
The progress has been encouraging, said Cpl. Brian Steddum, from Chouteau, Okla., a gunner with C Troop.
"Seeing the Iraqi DBE training themselves is a huge boost for us. We don't have to travel to so many places to conduct training since they will usually bring the border guards to one central location, and it helps to alleviate a lot of the leg work on our part since they will work to prepare the classes instead of us," he said.
In time, C Troop and BTT Phoenix hope to be able to phase out teaching the Iraqis altogether and transition to a purely advisory role, they said.