CONTINGENCY OPERATING STATION GARRY OWEN, Iraq -- Mortarmen from the 38th Brigade, 10th Iraqi Army Division met with Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division for joint training on a 120mm mortar system to include a four-round live-fire mission on July 4, at Contingency Operating Station Garry Owen.

"I'm stoked," said 1st Lt. Lon McBride of Copper Center, Alaska, platoon leader for the mortars section. "The guys have been working hard, training to get qualified on the guns, FDC (fire direction center) have been working for two weeks to ensure success. They're happy for the opportunity to do their MOS (military occupation specialty). They are more than excited. They're ready to roll."

As the link up time drew near, the United States Soldiers quickly assembled a 120mm mortar tube on the ground and the instructor got right into the lesson, showing the Iraqi mortarmen how to hang rounds safely. The end state of the training was to get the Iraqis the experience they need to effectively use equipment that they have in their inventory.

Though they've received training on mortars previously, getting involved in a live-fire exercise is a rare treat. The Iraqis were visibly excited. One officer apologized for asking so many questions, but the U.S. Soldiers just shrugged. They were enjoying themselves and sharing their passion for their craft. McBride held a plotting board and was explaining its use to a fascinated audience, while another group dangled a round from an extractor. They were having fun, and the real show hadn't even started.

Three Iraqi officers from the 38th Bde showed up for the training: Maj. Hussain, Capt. Asfour, and 2nd Lt. Achmed observed as Iraqi Soldiers listened to U.S. Soldiers talk about the uses for proximity and delay fuses.

After about an hour, the group moved to a vehicle mounted system. The Iraqis took turns hanging rounds for the live fire, sending four 120mm illumination rounds into the night sky. As the last round floated to the earth and its glare dimmed, the mortar men retained their glow with the excitement from the mission.

Brig. Gen. Abdul Amir, commander of the 10th IA Division, was so pleased with the operation that he said he would take over mortar capability in the future, and requested a training plan that builds Iraqi Army mortar skills to the point where the Iraqis conduct all fire missions and U.S. Forces only provide over watch.