Baghdad - Shooting, moving and communicating, the Iraqi Army tank crews successfully completed their capstone event-Tank Table VI live fire qualification, of their tank familiarization course Aug. 8 at the Besmaya Combat Training Center, Iraq.

Tank table VI features day and night; stationary and moving; as well as offensive and defensive engagements of automated pop-up targets. The training exercise simulates encounters with, tanks and armored personnel carriers, a tracked infantry vehicle, and troops in the open.

The four-man crews fire all weapons; the 120 mm main gun, a mounted M240 coaxial machine gun and the .50 caliber machine gun.

"Table VI takes in all the training the students have received thus far and demonstrates what they held onto, what they have learned," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Randy Christenson, an M1A1 Familiarization Course senior advisor with Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Army at Forward Operating Base Hammer.

Instructors stress crew cohesion and teamwork, which is much different from the previous crew operation concepts used by the Iraqi Army where one person commanding everything.

Iraqi Army officers have noted a difference between the American-style of training and the Iraqi Army's old training that was heavily lecture based.

"A lot of instructors from other countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have told Iraqi instructors that the western methodology is much faster for learning," said Iraqi Army 1st Lt. Waleed Khalid Muhammed, an M1A1 Cadre officer at the Beshmaya Combat Training Center.

"This methodology of training is more hands-on than just classroom learing," Waleed said. "It's much better, much faster."

It's not just the crews from the Iraqi Army that work hands-on for tank table VI and the 32-training day course.

Iraqi Army cadres communicate with crews from the tower, act as safety officers and operate the automated targets on the range during tank table VI.

The 20 Iraqi Army cadre are graduates of a previous tank familiarization course, and were selected for their roles based on their distinguished performance in their course. They assist in the training and become experienced in live-fire range operations, so that when the U.S. Army leaves Iraq, they will be subject matter experts and can run tank training programs of their own.
"They are very skilled at the M1A1;" said Christenson, a native of Dupont, Wash. "They know it inside and out."

The cadre have been working closely with ITAM-Army and Tank Familiarization Course instructors for 18 months.

Roughly 500 Iraqi Army Soldiers have graduated the tank familiarization class to date.
The Iraqi ArmySoldiers were training in preparation to operate and command M1A1 tanks in the near future, as 11 of 140 M1A1 tanks arrived at BCTC Aug. 12, as part of a foreign military sales agreement between the U.S. and Iraq.

"These tanks will keep our country secure and peaceful for sure," Waleed said. "A lot of insurgents are coming from outside the country and from inside, but they will know that Iraq has gone back to a position of power. Iraq has a large tank and airplane arsenal now, so they will think twice before they try to do something stupid."

Christenson said that the M1A1s are very sophisticated, state-of-the-art tanks.
In comparison to the M1A1s the Iraqi Army has been training on, the newly-purchased systems have more advanced engines and sights. They also have a self-cleaning air induction system as well as advanced embedded diagnostics.

"The M1A1 travels at a high rate of speed, and the faster you go the more stable that main gun is," Christenson said. "That is what is impressive about it, and that is what the students see. The M1A1s are just superior to what they are used to driving."

Christenson said when the students first arrive at the class, they are a bit apprehensive.

"Once they get on the tank and start playing with the knobs and pushing buttons and seeing the sabot and the High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds and all the weapons systems, they start to get interested and take ownership of their training," Christenson said. "That's their tank now, and they are proud. You see it on their faces."