HABBANIYAH, Iraq --
Cpl. William J. Benjamin, a 24-year-old communications technician, stands at the front of a classroom holding a military radio. He confidently instructs his class on proper maintenance procedures, but he pauses every few sentences, allowing a man speaking Arabic loudly to catch up. This interruption would have been both annoying and rude if this class was held anywhere but Iraq, but to the Iraqi soldiers of 1st Iraqi Army Division, based here, the interruptions ensured a thorough translation.
Benjamin, a Shamrock, Texas, native, along with his fellow Marines with communications platoon, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, trained the 1st IA Division soldiers here Oct. 8, enabling the soldiers to handle radio functions and troubleshooting methods.
The classes were held at Camp Habbaniyah’s east camp, where hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi Police and interpreters train and live. This instruction is an essential component of the transition of responsibility from Coalition Forces to Iraqi Security Forces that is occurring throughout the battalion’s area of operation. These classes were taught using hands-on demonstration, an easier way to learn the complicated radio systems, especially for people that don’t necessarily speak the same language, said Benjamin.
“Basically, I had a radio and showed them all of the places to keep clean and showed them how and where to use a preventative maintenance pencil, which is basically just an eraser,” said the 2002 Shamrock High School graduate. “Then I showed them what a clean and well maintained radio should look like.”
The Marines, who deal daily with Marine Corps’ communication hardware, each got up in front of the local troops to talk about the basics. This type of instruction is important for any person who deals with communication gear and is vital for any military unit to be successful, said Sgt. Kurtis J. Adams, the technician shop chief.
“In the military, everything revolves around communication,” said Adams, a 23-year-old Helena, Mo., native. “And the goal is to work with the Iraqis, training them so when we aren’t around anymore, they will be fully proficient and have reliable communications. This class was a great starting place for classes to come and is something they can really build on.”
The skills they would build upon where also taught to them by Lance Cpl. Jesse J. Quezada, a 21-year-old communications technician with the battalion, who explained the details of basic troubleshooting techniques and how to use them.
“I gave them pointers on what to look for when they are having trouble with their radios, how to correctly repair cables and use meter equipment to check and make sure their cables are still good,” said Quezada, a Tampa, Fla., native. “What surprised me the most was that they seemed excited, gave us their full attention and wanted to know the information. I think they really enjoyed getting in there with us and getting their hands dirty.”
The classes where a new experience for all who attended, said Quezada, a 2004 Brandon High School graduate, adding that he had never had to teach anybody of a different culture or language.
“Like in high school, if I knew a lot about a certain subject, I would help someone by talking them through it casually,” Quezada said. “Out here, using an interpreter, I couldn’t get instant feed back or know that they completely understood what I was explaining. It wasn’t one-on-one and they would ask me questions as a whole, but I think they all got it and that will help them to be completely independent and give them a better understanding of their equipment.”
In a way, it was fun for everybody, said Benjamin.
“I enjoy teaching people and getting to see them progress at what they do, and we accomplished that,” said the lanky Marine. “They basically knew what they were doing after the classes were done and the best part about it is that they really want to learn more and more.”
The classes ended and the Marines and soldiers were done for the day. Every person in the room was a little more knowledgeable and a little more prepared. Although a seemingly small event, this day was another success for the Marines of the “Ready to Fight” battalion and another step toward a full transition of the Habbaniyah area to its native Iraqis.