Iraqi commandos conquer special forces training

BAGHDAD, Iraq – This class of Iraqi Special Operations Forces graduates will “cut the roots of terrorism,” according to one of the newly designated special forces soldiers in a graduation ceremony here Dec. 4.

The march from regular Iraqi Army to the ranks of special operations forces began Nov. 1 for the 109 commando graduates. The path to prepare these men for their unique mission entailed elite training received at the Iraqi Special Warfare Center and School Commando course.

“You are the cavalry to this country, and you will be the example for others to follow,” said Gen. Abid Al-Khany Taher Ajeel, Counter-Terrorism Command commander, addressing the class of graduates. “I challenge you to continue the unity, the good deeds and the good works … march to the front.”

Some Coalition force leaders believe combating crime and violence requires operations that include the offensive measures taken to prevent, deter, preempt and respond to terrorism.

Therefore, the success of the commando training rests in the ability to instill a mindset of thinking and maneuvering with agility and speed, said a Coalition force advisor. A commando must remain sharp while on an objective, keeping his mind alert by always assessing the threat.

Unique to this class of graduates was the inclusion of Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Bureau and Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Command students. The CTB, which operates directly under the prime minister’s National Operational Command, and CTC, a subordinate staff to the CTB, are responsible for commanding Iraqi Special Operations Forces.

The training was necessary for soldiers of both agencies because it is necessary to think as a commando in order to effectively lead soldiers in the fight against criminals and insurgents throughout Iraq.

Commando training took students through four, week-long blocks of individual and team-building instruction. Instruction included classes on stress management, marksmanship, close-quarter battle and combat operations.

This was the third class of elite soldiers taught exclusively by Iraqi instructors with minimal oversight from CF advisors.

Commando training began with the stress phase. During this portion, Iraqi instructors pushed students to their mental and physical limits, to familiarize them with their body’s individual responses to stressful situations.

“The goal of Iraqi instructors was to grow soldiers’ competency level so they are able to fight those attacking Iraq,” said a CF advisor assigned to the commandos.

To be effective in that fight soldiers may have to face and overcome mental and physical challenges in both their personal and professional life. One student, who suffered from a foot injury due to an improvised explosive device prior to training, demonstrated his ability to sustain his mental and physical agility.

“My friend said to me, ‘You cannot attend training with that injury,’” said the once-wounded commando. “From that point, I pushed myself to finish. It’s all in your head.”

His tenacity to succeed led him to not only finish the course, but gain recognition as one of only three of the class’ honor graduates. As he and his classmates basked in their accomplishments in demonstrating their ability to stay mentally alert and physically strong, it was time to move on to the second block – training on the shooting range.

In preventing terrorism, a commando may potentially need to fire a weapon while on-the-move or within close-range. This portion of training familiarized students with the weapons’ handling. Soldiers were armed with M-4 assault rifles, M-9 pistols, and crew-served weapons for this training and that familiarization was built upon throughout the remainder of the course.

With the basic weapons-handling skills under their belt, students embarked on the close-quarter battle portion of training. CQB training simulates movement in an urban environment. Students also participated in simulated combined operations scenarios. Success depended on students’ ability to plan, execute and recover in a stressful combative environment.

CQB was followed by a recent addition to commando training to familiarize students with aircraft operations. With the use of four Iraqi Air Force Mi-17 helicopters, CF Soldiers and Airmen worked alongside IAF pilots to plan and execute a flight scenario. Commandos then executed a simulated mission while learning rotary-wing techniques for safely loading and unloading the aircraft, being at a combat ready state when exiting the aircraft and quickly securing the landing-zone perimeter once on the ground.

“This was very realistic and necessary training,” said a CF advisor. “Many of the commando students, much like their Coalition force partners, have never flown in a rotary aircraft. It was good practice for them to know what it feels like to quickly egress in a helicopter while the blades are spinning.”

Aircraft operations signaled the final week in commando training, and students seemed to be as energetic, committed and driven as they were from day one. Their positive attitude and can-do spirit held throughout the course.

“They followed direction well and were clearly motivated to finish the course,” said another CF advisor.

Bringing their commando training to a close, the students stood tall and recited their oath of allegiance in front of more than 100 cadre and distinguished guests.

Ultimately, the force to fight and win against terrorism will not come from the top – but from within each commando-trained ISOF soldier, said a CF advisor.

Editor’s Note: Source identities were removed due to operational sensitivities and the nature of the ISOF Commando mission

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