AL ANBAR, Iraq - Seen as a rite of passage among the U.S. Armed Forces, the Initial Entry Training graduation brings a certain enthusiasm and anxiety to the day's air.

That same elation is captured in Al Anbar, Iraq, Nov. 29 as the passing of the flag from the senior graduating class of Iraqi Army soldiers to the junior class, symbolizes change and the forward movement of troops as they are assigned to their first units and continue their military careers.

"Ten weeks ago you were civilians and now you are warriors for your country," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Shoemaker, commander of 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Division - Center, as he addressed the graduating class.

The most recent formation of about 1,250 troops marks the largest Initial Entry Training class to graduate from the Al-Habbaniya Training Center, with approximately 70 soldiers graduating mid to late December 2010.
Constructed on the west bank of the Euphrates River, the Al-Habbaniya Training Center dates back to 1936 when the British initially established it as the Royal Air Force Station Habbaniya and was utilized as a flight training school and a transport staging airfield during World War II. Most recently, HTC was used by Coalition Forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Forward Operating Base to run combat missions throughout Al Anbar Province, to include Fallujah and Ramadi.

Presently, Habbaniya has grown into a Regional Training Center, supporting both the 1st and 7th Iraqi Army Divisions, training about 12,000 soldiers this year.

Staff Colonel Zuhair Dhurgham, assigned as the commandant for the past year and a half, comes from a long line of military officers. Previously charged with training the Iraqi Army's Military Police, Dhurgham commands a cadre of 110 personnel.

In addition to the Initial Entry Training Course, the HTC also provides instruction for Military Occupational Specialty Qualifications, the Non-Commissioned Officer Educational System and two unit-level programs-the Commando Course and the Warrior Training Program.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, director of Iraq Training and Advisory Mission, U.S. Forces-Iraq, declared HTC, mission complete, signifying U.S. Forces advisory role as hands-on trainers, no longer necessary.

"With the downsizing of U.S. Forces, ITAM personnel no longer consist of specialized training teams," said1st Lt. Katherine Schultz, advisor for ITAM. "Essentially, our role at the Habbaniya Training Center now consists of working logistics requests through the Ministry of Defense."

Upon receipt of the mission to train more than 1,300 soldiers during this rotation, Dhurgham immediately began to request the necessary logistics capabilities. Simultaneously, he refocused all cadre and training efforts on the basic training mission.

Captain Joe Pimentel, commander of Company B., 3rd Bat., 15th Inf. Regt., 4th AAB, 3rd Inf. Div., USD-C, said the only assistance Dhurgham requested was refresher training for his cadre on the M-16 rifle.

The curriculum at HTC is similar to the U.S. Armed Forces Basic Training Course. It consists of basic Soldiers skills, including physical fitness, basic rifle marksmanship, radio communications, medical skills, and values and ethics, adopted by Dhurgham from the "Army Values."

There are more similarities in the training curriculum at the HCT adopted from the U.S. Army. For example, the ever popular obstacle, "the weaver" can be found among the various obstacles at the HTC endurance course. And at the entry to every classroom, the latest version of the program of instruction is posted. Recent additions to the POI were written by Dhurgham, approved by the Iraq Ministry of Defense and are now model doctrine for the Iraqi Army Basic Training Course.

Dhurgham said his cadre performed their duties and set new standards for training Iraq's Army.
"This course trains the professional soldier," he said. "They will make dramatic changes to the Iraqi Army. They love their country and their job and if the lord wishes, they will successfully serve and protect the country of Iraq."