CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq - Mortars are the most responsive indirect fire asset available to small unit commanders during the heat of close quarters combat, and the effectiveness of this weapon system is dependent on the proficiency of the mortar crew.

Mortar men assigned to 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division trained soldiers assigned to 3rd Battalion, 11th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Army Division on how to operate the unit's three types of mortar systems at Ghuzlani Warrior Training Center, March 12.

"Today we are working on mounting the mortar and small and large deflections. (This is) concurrent training of everything we have taught them over the past three days," said Staff Sgt. Archie Lee Rollins, 60 mm mortar system noncommissioned officer in charge, Troop A, 1st Sqdn., 9th Cav. Regt.

Leading the third iteration of the 25-day collective training cycle, known as Tadreeb al Shamil, Arabic for All Inclusive Training, "Head Hunter" Soldiers of 1st Sqdn., 9th Cav. Regt. are training IA divisions to develop their capability for conducting unit-level operations, while modernizing IA ground forces.

"Our task out here is to train the Iraqi Army mortars to be tactically proficient," said Rollins, a native of Carlisle, Pa. "We want to give them the opportunity of having the best training possible out here."

Each U.S. Soldier teamed with a group of IA mortar soldiers demonstrating the proper steps to align the system for the specified target location grid coordinates.

Iraqi teams from 3rd Bn.'s Mortar Support Company meticulously adjusted their 60, 81 and 120 mm mortar systems using instructions provided by U.S. mortar Soldiers.

"This is excellent training. It is building their proficiency in the mortar system" said Lt. Col. Aziz Ali, commander, Mortar Support Company, 3rd Bn., 11th Bde., 3rd IA Div. "When the whole company trains together, it is easier for them all to (have the same standard). They will be able to defend themselves in the future and retrain other units."

Once 3rd IA soldiers increased their proficiency using the systems, the teams competed against each other to see which team could set up their mortar system quickest.