BAGHDAD - Eighty-five Iraqi Army soldiers graduated from the M1A1 Tank Familiarization Course Aug. 12 at the Besmaya Combat Training Center, Iraq.

The Iraqi Army soldiers are preparing to operate and command M1A1 tanks in the near future, as 11 of 140 M1A1 tanks also arrived Aug. 12 at the BCTC as part of a foreign military sales agreement between the U.S. and Iraq.

The 32-day course featured 20 Iraqi Army cadres assisting in the training and gaining operational experience of a live fire range. The cadres are graduates of a previous tank familiarization course and were selected for their roles based on their distinguished performance in their course.

During the course, the crew "orients itself to the tank, gets familiar with how it shoots, moves and communicates safely to the tower and other tanks," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Randy Christenson, M1A1 familiarization course senior advisor at the BCTC.

Cadre officer Iraqi Army 1st. Lt. Waleed Khalid Muhammed said the course methodology is more efficient than what he experienced in the Iraqi Army in the past, because of all the field instruction. "In the old days when we were training on tanks, we used to have just classes without having the opportunity to work with and see the equipment," Waleed said.

Approximately 500 Iraqi Army soldiers have graduated the tank familiarization class to date.