ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - The next time the U.S. State Department needs experts in diplomacy to establish partnerships in a foreign country, they should consider using Army Materiel Command subject matter experts from U.S. Army depots. Since September 2009, Anniston and Red River Army depots have deployed approximately 40 subject matter experts on six- to 12-month tours to Joint Base Workshop, previously called Taji National Depot, Taji, Iraq.

As part of JBW, the SMEs are an integral part of the AMC goal is to build an enduring partnership between the U.S. and the government of Iraq in maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities.

Under the command of the 402nd AFSB, JBW supports United States Forces - Iraq, JBW provides technical and training support to enable the establishment of a permanent national-level Iraqi Security Forces Level 4 maintenance, repair and overhaul capability for wheeled, small arms and component repair.

When asked how he related to Iraqi soldiers as students, Michael Griggs, Anniston Army Depot SME in small arms operations, said, "I accepted that they are from a different culture from my own and then I broke barriers by gaining their trust with my technical expertise."

In fact, Griggs' Iraqi students have grown to appreciate him so much that they often call him "habibi," an Arabic term of endearment between brothers. Griggs works with James Johnson, small arms SME ANAD, in teaching Level 4 Small Arms maintenance processes to Iraqi Soldiers.

ANAD SME machinist Larry Simmons, likewise, has had a very positive experience in working with Iraqi soldiers.

"In talking with them (Iraqi soldiers) every day, I have found that they want a better future for their families, just like we do," he said.

New arrivals to the JBW mission are Linda Kelley and Roderick Trammel of ANAD. They, along with two other SMEs from RRAD host a Depot Planner and Controller Course, which began April 11.

Future JBW SME missions will include providing training support for tracked vehicles and starting the Small Arms Facility Production Line. Both missions are scheduled for June 2011.

James McKinney, ANAD SME supervisor and JBW deputy to the DCO, regularly uses reach-back capabilities at ANAD to plan for the track mission and consequently to ensure its success.

The ANAD team of Griggs, Johnson and Steve Loggins will execute the SAF production mission. Loggins will be conducting electroplating and anodizing training for the SAF.

One area that is common to both American and Iraqi cultures is celebration of success. The Anniston Small Arms SME team recently completed machine and small arms training and will present certificates to their Iraqi students for a job well done in mastering the training. SMEs and IA soldiers agree that this is the beginning of a great partnership.