BAGHDAD - As the Iraqi Army works to lessen its reliance on commercial radios and increase usage of tactical systems, the Iraqi Army Signal School at Camp Taji trains Soldiers to man those tactical radios in its 90-day Basic Communications Course.

Students learn proper usage of the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System and the Harris system. The students are also taught on Barrett, Codec, and Motorola radios because commercial radios are still the main form of communication for some Iraqi units.

Due to limited resources in the past, some units used cell phones as that is all many units had available.

"They're trying to get away from Soldiers using cell phones as a tactical means of communication," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Hayes, Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Army senior advisor to the Iraqi Army Signal School, and a native of Smyrna, Ga. "The more that Soldiers are trained on the radios, the more radios make their way into the Iraqi supply system and then down and fielded and installed in the units, which provides a capability that really didn't exist before."

Getting the radios to Iraqi Army units and then teaching them to communicate in a secure manner leads to better operational security, Hayes said. It enables them to better protect themselves and their forces, and to successfully execute missions.

"There is no army in the world that can move one step forward or one step to the back without communication," said Iraqi Army Col. Abdul Kareem Abass, Iraqi Army Signal School deputy commander. "Signal is like the body of the army. There is no leader that can be successful unless he is good at communication."

To develop those communication skills the Iraqi Army Signal School teaches practical blocks of instruction on topics such as authentication, security and encryption. Theoretical instruction includes antenna theory, wave propagation and mathematical formulas.

United States Forces-Iraq's ITAM-Army advisors work closely with Iraqi Army instructors and school leadership to improve the Iraqi Army Signal School.

"The signal school has a healthy discontent for the status quo," said Hayes, who helped the school's leadership develop a course critique that utilizes a ratings scale system of evaluation.

Based on the results, the school is incorporating feedback and adding additional blocks of instruction next year, to include Small Aperture Terminals and Iraqi Defense Network.

"If you ask the commander, he will tell you we are part of his team, we are working toward making the school a better place," Hayes said.

"I work with the instructors regularly," said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Laurencio Gonzalez, ITAM-Army's senior enlisted advisor to the Iraqi Army Signal School, and a native of San Antonio.

Gonzales spends time with the school's instructors on days when they are not teaching, sharing his experience to help the Iraqi instructors find ways to be more successful.

The signal school offers quality instruction to Soldiers, both enlisted and officer who meet a prerequisite to read and write Arabic, Hayes said. A basic understanding of English helps, because some of the manuals and terminology are in English. Soldiers who do not meet the requirements are denied entry into the school.

Editor's note: Menegay is a member of the Ohio Army National Guard's 196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment attached to the U.S. Forces-Iraq Deputy Commanding General for Advising and Training Public Affairs Office.