AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – Different types of military operations call for specific methods of insertion. Since the advent of the helicopter-borne insertion during the Korean War nearly 60 years ago, air assault has become an extremely viable method of troop insertion.
To refine their air assault skills, Iraqi soldiers with 1st Company, Commando Battalion, 7th Iraqi Army Division, took to the skies in the back of two Marine CH-53E Super Stallion transport helicopters as they participated in familiarization of helicopter and air assault operations.
“What we’re trying to do is get the commandos used to getting on helicopters, teach them the proper way of loading and off-loading, how to store their weapons, and how to pull security before and after they get off the helicopters,” said Robert Wise, a special operations foreign internal defense advisor with Military Transition Team 7.
During the training, the commandos loaded into the back of the helicopters and were flown to a small objective several miles away. Upon touchdown, the soldiers quickly exited and set up security in a 360-degree perimeter around the helicopter, securing the immediate area and allowing the CH-53E to safely lift off again.
“It was our first time as a company in the helicopter,” said Iraqi Army Sgt. Qahtan Hamza, a platoon sergeant with 1st Company. “It was very interesting.”
The Commando Battalion is made up of soldiers with vastly different levels of experience and training, and Wise explained the importance of every soldier participating in the training, regardless of their proficiency.
“Some of the [Iraqi] soldiers have done this many times, but this is the first time as a group,” explained Wise. “We have them go through the training step by step so we can get them all on the same level.”
Though helicopter familiarization is the commandos’ final exercise before they graduate from a month-long training cycle, both Wise and the soldiers feel confident in the skills they have acquired.
“I think they’ve come a long way from where we started off,” said Wise. “They’re excited, they’re motivated and they’ve already been on one mission [since the training began] where they looked for insurgent activity in Anbar province.”
Hamza said he thoroughly enjoyed the training and is confident in his abilities.
“I am very ready for [a real life helicopter mission],” he said. “I wish we could go through helicopter training every day and fly all around the country!”