Continuing to build and refine the new Iraqi army

Iraqi Security Forces Gaining in Quality, General Says

DefenseLINK:

To imbue the Iraqi army with professionalism its officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted soldiers are required to attend a number of military schools located across the country, Lynch said. These, he said, include enlisted basic and officer candidate training facilities, officer and NCO leadership schools, and an ethics and leadership institute for senior Iraqi military leaders.

The Iraqi army also has established a service and support institute, Lynch said, as well as a world-class firing range that enables troops to train with all weapons in the Iraqi army’s inventory.

Some of Iraq’s future military leaders are getting their educations from abroad, Lynch said. An Iraqi cadet at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, Great Britain, he said, graduated this year as the top foreign cadet. And a large number of Iraqi cadets will enter the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., this summer, the general said.

Building the new Iraqi army has been a long and slow process (well, relative to expectations, anyway) but it is beginning to really pay dividends. The focus for many units is no longer getting fully-formed or even gaining combat experience. They’ve reached the point where they’re beginning to grow into mature military organizations. The recruits have gained personal experience and been promoted when appropriate, which is a lot different than simply assigning someone to a leadership position because of his non-military experience or his rank in the old Iraqi army.

Here’s another DefenseLINK release: U.S. Forces to Take on Different Role in Iraq, Officials Say:

American units already are partnering with Iraqi units, helping them with training, logistics, and other combat support operations, said Marine Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, operations director on the Joint Staff. This partnering will continue, with an increased focus on developing the Iraqis’ combat support capabilities so they eventually will be able to function independently, he said.

Transition teams that assist Iraqi units will increasingly be made up of senior noncommissioned officers and officers who are more technically oriented and can provide the Iraqis with specific training, Conway said.

And

As the Iraqis develop these capabilities, more U.S. engineer and logistics units will deploy instead of combat units to help the Iraqi units function, said Larry Di Rita, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for public affairs.

As MO has pointed out repeatedly, it is the logistics and support elements that are preventing many Iraqi units from attaining the ‘Level 1’ “fully independent” status that the media seems so obsessed with. The ‘Level 1’ issue, which first became a popular meme at the beginning of October, was noted again a couple of days ago in a NY Newsday article questioning the President’s statistics.

When the ‘Level 1’ issue first became headline news, I noted that it wasn’t ‘Level 1’ that mattered so much, but ‘Level 2’. This was reinforced by remarks last month that suggested that it was the number of ‘Level 2’ battalions that would dictate the withdrawal of US forces.

And another DefenseLINK release: Iraqi Security Forces Working Toward Self-Sufficiency:

The task requires building leadership capabilities at all levels and molding members into cohesive operational units able to stand up to the terrorist threat, said [Army Brig. Gen. Richard J.] Sherlock, who spent a year in Iraq as commander of the Iraqi Assistance Group (Provisional) and deputy commander of the Coalition Military Assistance Team, Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.

At the same time, Sherlock said, it involves standing up a logistical and administrative network capable of supporting them, as well as the ministries of Defense and Interior that oversee their operations, Sherlock said.

Combat units are just the “tip of the spear” in a modern army. For every trigger-puller, you need an awful lot of personnel supporting him. This gets overlooked by many, and the sheer ignorance that most professional journalists seem to have with regards to the military simply feeds the misconception that if you train a man to shoot you have a soldier, and if you train a lot of men to shoot you have an army.

One early step in building Iraq’s security forces was to create the foundation for a strong noncommissioned officer corps – something Sherlock said didn’t exist under former dictator Saddam Hussein.

NCOs in the old Iraqi army had few leadership responsibilities and little authority, he said, so the coalition helped the Iraqis create NCO and junior officer programs that promote leadership traits, he said.

“As we continue to grow that capability, we are teaching them to be squad leaders, platoon leaders, platoon sergeants, first sergeants,” he said. “In many cases, these are lessons they are learning for the first time.”

U.S. and coalition forces subscribe to the “train-the-trainer concept,” in which they train Iraqis who, in turn, train their comrades. This builds on their new leadership capabilities and increases the force’s ability to sustain itself, Sherlock said.

“A unit is not just a collection of individuals who have trained to a certain level,” he said. “It’s being able to operate with each other, back each other up, become a whole that is greater than just the sum of its parts.”

This has been discussed several times previously on MO, as well. Especially after the 1991 war, Iraq’s army was little more than a collection of thugs with heavy weapons and a shaky chain of command. We are trying to build a truly professional modern army in Iraq, and that is a big reason why simply keeping the old army, though perhaps politically expedient in 2003, would have made things worse in the long run.

Note: In this post I’ve linked to and quoted extensively from three DefenseLINK press releases. In a comment on an earlier post today, a reader wrote

bias, like in the case of Fox news, where they run memos from the GOP and call it news

I can see where simply reprinting or rebroadcasting something might not be acceptable, but doesn’t the subject and content of the news determine its “newsworthy-ness”? Since I’m quoting government press releases, does that make me a Kool-Aid-drinking parrot of propaganda? Or is the content of the press release newsworthy? And if it is, why aren’t more news organizations covering it?

Sure, this is news about the military from the military. And that fact must be kept in mind. But past performance has shown that news about the military from outside the military is often suspect as well. And Murdoc keeps that fact in mind.