AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – During the past few years, the insurgency has been dealt a serious blow in Iraq’s Al Anbar province at the hands of Iraqi and Coalition forces. However, those insurgents who remain often seek anonymity among the population and shelter in the buildings of Iraqi cities, towns and villages.
The delicate procedure of ridding population centers of these unwelcome visitors without harming the peaceful, law-abiding populace calls for a specific type of surgical military action – close-quarters battle.
With graduation from their month-long commando course only days away, the soldiers of 1st Company, Commando Battalion, 7th Iraqi Army Division, locked and loaded to complete close-quarter live-fire training, one of their final and most important courses.
Although useful in rocky, mountainous terrain and caves, close-quarters battle tactics are especially crucial in urban environments where the soldiers must swiftly enter and search buildings to engage the enemy. The close-quarters battle training was designed to prepare the Iraqi soldiers for operations in cramped spaces where they must maneuver in close proximity of one another and engage targets at short ranges with precision.
Marines and civilian advisors from Military Transition Team 7 from Multi National Force – West, who developed the training program in conjunction with officers from the 7th IA Division, were assisted by Marines from Regimental Combat Team 8 who helped guide the commandos through room-clearing methods before the Iraqi soldiers loaded their weapons with live ammunition and prepared to go in shooting.
“The first time they do live-fire in close quarters, there’s a bit of trepidation,” said Lt. Col. John Van Messel, team chief for MiTT-7. “They have to work through the problem set, they have to trust their fellow soldiers to their right and to their left and they have to rely on them to be successful in conducting the mission.”
Soon after beginning the live-fire portion of the exercise, MiTT-7 stepped back as the 7th IA commando officers took charge of their soldiers’ training.
“This training develops and improves the ability of the soldiers,” said 1st Lt. Amir Mwafic, a commando officer with the company. “As we lead as officers, we feel more confident in our soldiers after the training.”
Cpl. Gassem Mohammed, a platoon sergeant with the 7th IA commandos, said he also notices daily improvement in his soldiers’ abilities.
“[The training] increases their experience,” began Mohammed, “and their performance will be improved more tomorrow than today.”
Even as soldiers like Mwafic and Mohammed take the lead, they remain grateful for the help of the Marines.
“The Iraqi soldiers have the great benefit of Marines, because Marines are good combatants and have a history in combat and fighting,” said Mwafic.
Van Messel explained that MiTT-7 may have developed the training matrix, but its success was dependent upon the individual Iraqi’s dedication.
“Their demeanor and their level of pride grows, obviously, with the experiences and successful opportunities to conduct training and other real-world missions they do in western Anbar,” said Van Messel. “They have a driving motivation to serve their country, be in the army, and be the best they can.”
“I would, without a doubt, say things are in good hands out here in Anbar.”