I Corps leaders visited locations around Iraq April 12-16 to familiarize themselves with the area and operations in preparation for their 2009 mission here.
Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, commanding general, I Corps and Fort Lewis, toured training sites, detainee facilities and talked with leadership on the ground to help shape the Corps' situational awareness. I Corps will assume authority MNC-I in Spring 2009.
"Lieutenant General (Lloyd J.) Austin (commanding general, Multi-National Corps - Iraq) wanted to make sure that the I Corps commander had broad situational awareness of the varied aspects of MNC-I and MNF-I operations," said Col. Mike Thomas, chief, commander's initiative group, MNC-I. "This included visiting battalion through division headquarters, joint security stations and training academies. He also spent a fair amount of time with various MNC-I staff members."
"The commander (Jacoby) believes that the commander's recon is one of the most important things the commander can do for his unit," said Maj. Kyle Marsh, aide de camp for Jacoby. The goal of this battlefield circulation is to begin shaping the Corps' awareness in the areas of operations, intelligence and development of the Iraqi Security Forces, Marsh said.
"Visiting multiple locations around the country gives the commander a sense of how the challenges and successes vary based on location, religious mix and economics," Thomas said. "Iraq is a very complex environment with multiple lines of operations."
Jacoby has been collecting knowledge and data from numerous sources to use when developing the Corps mission readiness exercise training, Marsh said. The visit to MNC-I provides current battle space operations while input from various Washington, D.C. agencies and senior mentors is helping Jacoby visualize the 2009 view of operations, Marsh said. "This will all help shape the training objective for the MRX to best train the Corps," Marsh said.
Training for the MNC-I mission will incorporate new missions with current skill sets. The I Corps mission has traditionally been to support the Pacific area of operations, Marsh said. However, with the loss of V Corps from the deployment rotation, I Corps has to step in.
"I Corps has always been Pacific focused," Marsh said. "Now, the Army has asked I Corps to lift and shift fire from the Pacific to the Iraq area of operations."
The change requires an adjustment to the size, shape and mentality of the Corps, Marsh added. Instead of defense and protection, the mission objective needs to shift to counterinsurgency.
Basic skill sets for Corps Headquarters personnel will remain the same, but the applications will change. "It's one thing to run a JOC (Joint Operations Center) during an exercise, it's another to run a JOC at war," Marsh pointed out.
And readying the Headquarters for their new role is the purpose of this trip. "We need to prepare personnel for problem sets they normally don't have in the Pacific environment," Marsh said. Situations such as military transition team support in isolated areas and handling mosques collapsing are issues specific to the Iraq area of operations, Marsh explained.
It will also be a new experience for Jacoby. He served in Afghanistan as one of the deputy commanding generals for 25th Infantry Division, but Iraq is a very different battlefield from Afghanistan, Thomas said. "The enemy and the tactics, techniques and procedures it employs are Iraq are very different from Afghanistan. This site survey gave the I Corps commander an up close and personal view of the difference."
This week's battlefield circulation is one of four potential trips to the MNC-I area of operations for the I Corps command group leading up to the transition of authority with XVIII Airborne Corps next year.