BASRA, Iraq - The only markers on the range are the burnt craters where vehicles were once parked. Steel cable juts out of the ground, rusted and frayed as it sticks up from under the sand. There are no buildings in sight, and only a rough road gives any sense of direction in the desert.
For the Basra Special Weapons and Tactics team and the trainers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, it's the perfect place to train.
Ten SWAT team members went to the Normandy Range Complex to practice training their fellow Iraqis on close quarters combat tactics Oct. 3.
The Basra SWAT team has trained with various special forces units, including the Navy SEALs and the British SAS, and every bit of training counts. The 1st Bn., 68th Arm. Regt., currently under the operational control of United States Division-South and the 1st Infantry Division, has taken up the task of teaching the SWAT team not just tactics, but how to pass on their knowledge in tactics to others.
The 10 SWAT members will go back to their unit able to train cadre for 52 other policemen, said Capt. Christopher Thompson, the Co. C Commander.
"What we're hoping with these 10 is that we set the training model that these guys will use from here on out," said Thompson, an Ellsworth, Kan., native. "Once we're gone, these guys will train future generations of SWAT."
Mohammad Kareem, a member of the Basra SWAT team, said the training is going a long way to allowing the Iraqis to protect their country.
"We believe the American forces and the experts try to do the best to have the Iraqi Security Forces trained so they can take all of the responsibility in the future so they can attack and face the terrorists and militias in Iraq," Kareem said.
The range consisted of several wooden targets set up on steel posts that the Soldiers and SWAT members brought and prepared on their own. After a few dry runs with their AK-47 rifles, the SWAT team practiced engaging targets in close quarters, turning to face and engage targets and shooting while advancing.
Sgt. Kent Marshall, a tanker with Co. C and one of the trainers, said the progress of the team has been noticeable since they began their week-long training.
"For the most part we're not trying to implement our tactics on them; we just want to make sure they have the capabilities to train their new guys," said Marshall, a native of Las Vegas. "We will give them a class, then we'll bring our younger guys in. We'd have them, with the interpreter, train our new guys up to their standards in the class we gave them."
Co. C is involved in several missions around Basra, including counter-mortar patrols, time sensitive targets and security for the Basra Operations Center, a joint Iraqi and U.S. installation.
About the only thing they don't do, according to Thompson, is drive tanks.
"Which is kind of ironic since this is in fact a tank company," he said.
Marshall said he was impressed by the capability of the forces he's trained and served with.
"We've done missions with these guys already," Marshall said. "We've seen them in action, and they excel ... We just want to make sure they have the fundamentals down to get their guys up to par."
"Everybody knows that the Basra SWAT team has a lot of experience," Kareem said. "We need to keep our experience up; we need to keep training; we need to keep trying. The SWAT team is always going to be ready."
1st Infantry Division and U.S. Division-South web site