By Pvt. Emily V. KnitterJune 23, 2010
BAGHDAD (Army News Service, June 23, 2010) -- Soldiers from the 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division and Air Force F-16 fighters teamed for four days with the 17th Iraqi Army Division conducting a full-scale defensive-fires exercise at the Besmaya Range Complex outside Baghdad.
The exercise was designed to show the full training possibilities available from individual weapons qualification to full-scale exercises to Iraqi Army and Iraqi Federal Police commanders from across the city.
"The main purpose was to show the Iraqi Security Forces how they can best utilize the range," said Maj. Robert Olszewski, the 1st AAB information operations officer. He said the joint training also helps the ISF develop and tailor itself to meet future needs.
The demonstration began with U.S. and Iraqi snipers on a small hill reacting to simulated enemy fire.
"Our part in this demonstration went flawlessly," said Sgt. Jon Foster, a sniper with the 7th Infantry Regiment. "My IA counterparts did a great job. Anything I ask them to do, they are right on top of it."
Foster added the training gave him the opportunity to make a significant impact on helping Iraqis take full control of security in Iraq.
Following the sniper team's demonstration, tanks rolled onto the site to provide support as helicopters reacted to simulated enemy fire.
A large-scale training operation like this is rare, said Air Force Lt. Col. Kevin Jablow. Because the Army and Air Force do not often get opportunities to work together in training scenarios, the benefits of the demonstration provided more than just a demonstration of the range capabilities.
"We got a whole lot of training for ourselves integrating with the Army, and the Army got a lot of experience working with the Air Force," said Jablow.
However, the main focus remained on the ISF.
"The range here is extremely effective and extremely capable," said Jablow. "It is going to carry on for years and years, and the more experience they get on it, the more training capability it will have for the Iraqi army and Iraqi air force."
"It is really important for the Iraqi commanders, as they continue building on their capacity, to understand how great of a training center this actually is, from small arms training all the way up through collective training," said Lt. Col. Gregory Sierra, a 7th Infantry Regiment Battalion commander. "I think our Soldiers did an amazing job: 17th IA Soldiers participating in this helped out to make this a great experience... all in a day's work."
(Pvt. Emily V. Knitter serves with the 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.)