I spoke today with CSM Andrews of the 3rd Infantry Division about the new Task Force Marne NCO Academy, where they are training the junior leaders of the Iraqi Army, Police and other security forces. The Iraqi Army and Police are the most important element that will allow us to take US forces out of their role as the main security for the country. The counter-insurgency strategy that we implemented the beginning of this year has led to clearing large areas of insurgents and then emplacing Combat Outposts (COPs). We now stand side by side with Iraqi forces in their neighborhoods and are in the process of givng them back control of their country. Both the Iraqi Army and Police have in the past had elements that were conducting some of the worst sectarian violence and the sergeant major said that a main focus of the instruction is the Laws of Land Warfare and treatment of non-combatants. This is vital in order for them to gain the trust of the Iraqi populace.
A strong and competent NCO corps is imperative for a military to function well. Early operations with the Iraqi Army often failed and the soldiers would scatter rather than work as a unit. There are many things that contributed to it's ineffectiveness, but the lack of trained, experienced sergeants putting boots to butts was a major flaw. CSM Andrews also noted that building up these NCOs will create trust from the Iraqi officer corps that will allow them to rely on their sergeants for the common sense look at how to make things work. US officers have the advantage of several hundred years experience in their own training and development as well as an NCO corps with the same history. The training they are giving these Iraqi soldiers gives them a jumpstart and the advantage of what we have learned. It's important work and more than just about anything else it's what will allow us to take our troops out of the fray.
Thanks for your time CSM Andrews, Rock of the Marne!
Here is the audio of the interview. Photos SPC Emily Wilsoncroft