TAJI, Iraq -- The next time the U.S. State Department needs experts in diplomacy to establish partnerships in a foreign country, they might 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 SMEs on six to 12 months tours to the Joint Base Workshop (previously called Taji National Depot), Taji, Iraq.

The SMEs are an integral part of the AMC goal to build an enduring partnership between the U.S. and the Government of Iraq in maintenance, repair and overhaul capabilities. Under command of the 402nd Army Field Support Brigade, 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 MRO capability for wheeled, small arms and component repair.

“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,” said Michael Griggs, Anniston Army Depot SME in small arms operations.

In fact, his Iraqi students have grown to appreciate Griggs 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.

Red River Army Depot SMEs, supervised by Jason Cross, have had similar experiences teaching level 4 - 5T and M1114 (HMMWV) maintenance processes.

“Understanding cultural differences and having patience is the key to success,” said SME Robert Fisher.

Confirming the success of training provided by the RRAD team, Iraqi Soldier, Hakeem Hashim, was straight to the point, “We have good instructors.”

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.

ANAD SMEs new to the JBW mission are Linda Kelley and Roderick Trammel. They, along with John Ratcliff, SME from RRAD, are teaching a Depot Planner and Controller Course, which started in April.

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 deputy commanding officer, 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 has 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.