HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- A crucial aspect to the future and success of a free, sovereign Iraq is the skilled Iraqi soldier. Another facet in the fight is bridging the cultural misconceptions and prove the common goal is to defeat the insurgency and bring an end to sectarian violence. Marines and sailors at the Multi-National Force-West Training Center are building that bridge, one trained Iraqi soldier at a time.
Throughout history, the Marines Corps has proven its ability to devastate the enemy. The training and determination of the individual Marine in conflict has built a legendary reputation. Here, Marines have risen to the challenge again and believe they have figured out a way to win the fight without firing a shot.
“We believe that this conflict can be won, and is going to be won, by the Iraqi soldier dominating their battle space,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Terry Walker, gunner. “We have to convince them it’s in their best interest to defeat the insurgency with the forces they have available. It’s their fight and they’re doing a fine job.”
Walker, the director of MNF-W Training Center, feels his team has an important mission ahead of them, training the Iraqi solider.
“We treat the Iraqi soldier the same as any other Marine or sailor,” he said. “We extend an open hand of camaraderie and treat them with dignity and respect.”
Walker works alongside 13 Marines and two sailors. He is impressed with their enthusiasm, willingness and loyalty to the cause of training the Iraqi soldiers. Most Marines and sailors volunteered to be here. For many, this is their second deployment and have spent less than a year on American soil since their last deployment. Others have extended their contracts or re-enlisted, leaving the safety of the United States and their loved ones for a chance to make a difference in a country riddled by war.
“I have the greatest Marines in the Marine Corps,” he said. “Most have waived their dwell time for the purpose to come back and perform in this mission.”
To the Marines it was just their duty.
“The whole reason we’re here is to put ourselves out of a job,” said Staff Sgt. Douglas Bisson, staff noncommissioned officer–in-charge of the Iraqi Small Arms Weapons Instructor Course. “If we do this, we’ve done a good job.”
Marines spend two weeks instructing Iraqi students in a professional, military environment. They provide classes on Iraqi pistols, rifles, machine guns and mortars, teaching specific characteristics, handling and firing of the weapon systems. Marines expect students to carry this knowledge back to their units and become marksmanship instructors without relying on coalition forces.
Bisson hopes to get across the importance of a single, well-aimed shot to each student.
“Shooters in general, no matter what uniform they’re wearing, have the same bad habits,” said Bisson. “The difference in language translates into the same thing.”
Many times the Iraqi soldier has grown up firing the rifle from the hip and set to full automatic mode, he said. He teaches them the importance of adjusting the rifle sites or body position to hit the desired target with a solitary shot. Classroom instruction is reinforced by taking the students to the rifle range and applying the techniques.
“I’m always looking forward to a live-fire day,” Bisson said. “It’s a great way to evaluate these guys and how they’re applying the lessons we taught them.”
The lessons here are bigger than weapons or techniques. It is about establishing a self-governing nation capable of defending its borders, protecting its civilians against insurgents and creating a future for the children of Iraq, Walker said.
“(Iraqi soldiers) want to look in the future and see that his children will have an opportunity for success,” he said. “They want to make a difference and see security in their nation. In wanting that, they realize that first they have to defeat this insurgency that is tearing their country apart.”
Walker, his Marines and the men of the Iraqi Army have begun building the foundation for Iraq’s success. If history proves itself again, Marines and the people of Iraq can rest assured the enemy does not stand a chance.