UMM QASR, Iraq - United Kingdom Royal Marine Brig. Simon Timothy "Tim" Chicken, the new director of the Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission Navy, visited the port city of Umm Qasr, Iraq, today during his official visit to ITAM Navy Umm Qasr's operations.
During his two day visit to the southern-most portion of Iraq, Chicken toured the port's infrastructure and capital improvement projects; visited with various Iraqi Navy, Royal Navy, Royal Marine, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard personnel stationed here and inspected the latest deliveries Iraq's naval fleet.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Jeffery "Scott" Jones, director of the Coalition Naval Advisory and Training Team, commands the combined forces at Umm Qasr operating the maritime component of the Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission. ITAM is an effects-based program under the overall leadership of Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, deputy commanding general Advising and Training, U.S. Forces-Iraq.
In partnership with the Government of Iraq, the DCG (A&T) develops professional Iraqi security ministries, institutions, and forces that are capable of maintaining internal security and defending against external threats; on order, transition designated missions, organizations, and functions to other U.S. Government agencies.
Brig. Chicken comes to ITAM Navy from his previous posting with the Joint Headquarters of the U.K. Ministry of Defense in London. In 2002, Queen Elizabeth II awarded Chicken the honor of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for his meritorious service. Chicken replaces outgoing ITAM Navy Director, Royal Navy Commodore Jeremy J. Blunden.
"It is perhaps a bit premature to arrive at an overall vision for ITAM Navy," Chicken said. "However in my new role, I do intend to continue to develop the combined efforts of the U.K. and U.S. elements of ITAM-Navy Umm Qasr with the Baghdad headquarters components. It is my intention to develop the means by which we collectively drive forward this mission."
Chicken called the ITAM Navy mission "a unique partnership and a special enterprise," to make the Iraqi maritime forces mission-capable on, or before, the end of 2011; building upon the progress achieved in ITAM Navy's relatively-short existence.
"Ultimately this is about Iraqi readiness," he said. "If I can help to ensure we are unified in our purpose here, then we can move on to greater things. Here at Umm Qasr, we have a real strong foundation. We need to protect this foundation. By better things, I mean we should build further on this foundation together; Iraqi, British and American."
This was not Chicken's first visit to the ITAM Navy Umm Qasr mission.
"I must say the personnel here have achieved a phenomenal amount of success," Chicken said. "I have seen a tremendous difference between March and now in terms of the capabilities of Iraq's maritime forces. ITAM Navy Umm Qasr has clearly raised the bar in the delivery of Iraqi maritime capability."
According to Chicken, Umm Qasr is not the only place where USF-I (A&T) is making progress.
"It is not just about the Iraqi Navy; outstanding achievements are being made in the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Air Force and the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior," he said.
There is a sense of urgency in the ITAM mission, and USF-I (A&T) has an explicit mandate to carry out its function before the end of 2011, when the U.S. military presence in Iraq is scheduled to end.
"We have some clear direction from Lt. Gen. Barbero that the proverbial clock is ticking," Chicken said. "Given the fact that the clock is ticking, he told me all of our efforts are directed with this (urgency) in mind."
Chicken said he will defer to the judgment of the trainers and enablers of ITAM as to assessing the readiness levels of the Iraqi defense components as they continue to train and partner with their ITAM counterparts.
"I think the most obvious indicator will be delivered by our junior Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen," he said. These junior leaders see the Iraqis day in and day out. Given these daily interactions, they will be in, perhaps, the best position to judge the capabilities of Iraq's self-defense forces."
At the end of his visit, Chicken indicated he was enthusiastic about his new posting with USF-I. He suggested his previous experience in the American military made him eager to work again with U.S. forces in this new leadership role.
"I am looking forward to this position massively," he said. "I have a lot of experience working with the United States of America and the Americans. I lived in the northern Virginia portion of the Washington, D.C., area for approximately three years and it was a fantastic experience for me."