Spc. Kandi Huggins 1st Advise and Assist Task Force Public Affairs 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Division-North CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION K1, Iraq - Soldiers of 12th Iraqi Army Division demonstrated the ability to conduct missions independent of U.S. forces' involvement during a situational training exercise at Contingency Operating Location K1, near Kirkuk, Iraq, May 16. Iraqi Security Forces personnel planned and coordinated the event as part of Operation Iron Lion, an ongoing capstone exercise demonstrating cooperation between ISF agencies, allowing U.S. forces to step back and assess progress. ISF commanders proved their readiness to conduct training without direct U.S. involvement during the exercise, the culmination of six-weeks of preparation by Iraqi troops, said Capt. Sheung Li, commander of Company C, 101st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Infantry Division. Iraqi soldiers from each of the division's brigades attended two-week courses on maintenance, transportation and first aid before being tested on the material during the final exercise. "We're here to see how the 12th IA soldiers retained the previous training we've given them as they react to different scenarios," said Li, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. "We want to see how they carry on training without being told what to do and how to do it and also how well their advisors observe and evaluate their soldiers' efforts." During the scenario, IA soldiers left their compound at COL K1 on a convoy to Kirkuk to pick up cargo and return to base. Company commanders evaluated the performance of their units as soldiers faced simulated small arms fire and Improvised Explosive Devices along the route. American leaders delegated platoon and company-level assessments to Iraqi commanders, focusing objective evaluation on how Iraqi commanders coordinated and planned the event. "It was about how well they put on a full-scale training event," said Capt. James Marshall, assistant logistic advisor for the 12th IA Stability Transition Team, 101st BSB. "At this point, we're seeing how well they planned and resourced-it wasn't about how they executed." Marshall said as Iraqi leaders plan and conduct more independent training, soldiers will become more efficient and confident in their abilities. Colored smoke filled the air as opposing forces launched the ambush on the convoy. Drivers attempted to rush through the ambush into an open road lane when an IED simulator disabled the second truck in the convoy. Soldiers jumped from their trucks and rushed through the smoke to check for casualties and recover the damaged vehicle. Fellow soldiers safely evacuated casualties to a waiting vehicle before securing the damaged truck and towing it out of the ambush zone, ending the exercise. Iraqi soldiers showcased their capabilities during the exercise, which simultaneously tested units on convoy operations, maintenance and recovery operations, and first aid, said Maj. Edward Huddleston, an operations officer from Springfield, Ill., assigned to 101st BSB. "This was an example of the Iraqis demonstrating that their security forces are prepared and ready to conduct operations without the U.S. involvement on any level," Huddleston said. Marshall said as the ISF continues to conduct such training operations, U.S. forces will be able to take even more of a step back from supervisory roles and watch as Iraqi leaders function completely autonomously. "The biggest key for (Iraqi officers) now is rehearsing different scenarios in order for them to see the different holes in their plans and come up with ideas to improve and adjust their training," said Marshall, a Spokane, Wash., native. "Sometimes you will fall, but it's how you pick yourself up, and as they continue to do more hands-on training and begin realizing the importance of it, they will build more confidence and provide their soldiers with more training." -30-