BAGHDAD, Iraq — Pvt. Salah Kahdum is ready.
The 25-year-old Soldier assigned to the 11th Iraqi Army Division has finished a nearly three-week long commando school instructed by soldiers with Company B, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center. The training culminated in a graduation ceremony Dec. 24 at Joint Security Station Old MoD in Baghdad.
To get to this point, Kahdum—like many Iraqi Army soldiers—has made a lot of personal sacrifices. Kahdum left his home in Najaf more than three years ago to enlist in the Army and help the people of Iraq. During his time in the Army, he has worked in three different companies throughout the Baghdad area.
Kahdum said when given the opportunity to attend commando training, he jumped at the opportunity because he believed that the additional training would be beneficial for him and the other soldiers on his team.
“The more training we receive, the less blood we will shed in combat,” Kahdum said.
The Iraqi soldiers began the commando course learning the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship, reflexive fire and how to operate within a team and squad. Once they had a firm grasp of the training, the noncommissioned officers and officers of Company B gave them instruction on how to clear rooms and stairwells and concluded the training with a live-fire exercise in a shoot house at Camp Taji, which tied all the training together.
“After the training at the shoot house, my initial expectations were far exceeded” said 1st Lt. Luke McDonald, the platoon leader in charge of the Commando training and a Huntingburg, Ind., native. “If the end state of our deployment is a drawdown of forces, the Iraqi Army soldiers are well on their way to self-sustainment, both at the officer and enlisted level.”
“We benefitted from the joint training with the American soldiers,” Kahdum said. “Whenever we have an opportunity to train with Americans and work side-by-side, it will only make us better. The training was very difficult for us, but we will see the fruit from our labor.”
In addition to the development of the enlisted soldiers, the Iraqi lieutenants were able to develop their leadership abilities. They often assisted in the instruction and took an active role in leading their Soldiers through the training.
“The lieutenants I worked with during the training raised the bar. They displayed a concerted interest in their soldiers’ development,” McDonald Said.
Kahdum said his officers were keen and eager throughout all of the training and that they provided great critiques and showed the soldiers ways to improve. He said the officers he worked with acted like elder brothers to all of the soldiers.
After the graduation ceremony, Kahdum said he looked forward to spending time with his family.
“My family is naturally worried for my safety, but know that I am here helping to keep my family and my country safe,” he said.