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Iraqi Army prepares for Operation Lion's Leap

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Iraqi soldiers are slated to begin Operation Lion's Leap April 18, 2011, and culminate it with a live-fire exercise the following week which will integrate mortars, ground troops and air assets.

U.S. and Iraqi Army leaders began planning and rehearsals for this 12th Iraqi Army Division capstone training exercise during a preparation meeting at Mahgoor Training Site, Kirkuk province, April 10.

Col. Michael Pappal, commander of the 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, and members of 12th IA Div. Stability Transition Team, observed rehearsals as Iraqi soldiers practiced for the full-spectrum, live-fire exercise slated to take place April 24.

Iraqi leaders plan to showcase the division's tactics and progress made during Operation New Dawn as mortar crews, forward ground troops and air assets all integrate to assault an "enemy" objective.

While U.S. Forces give suggestions and support during the preparation phase, Iraqi forces will conduct the live-fire operation completely on their own, said Lt. Col. John Poppie, 12th IA Div. Stability Transition Team chief, 1st Advise and Assist Task Force.

"We are trying to give them some assistance now during the train-up," said Poppie. "But when it comes to the exercise itself they will handle everything on their own."

Iraqi leaders said the goal of Lion's Leap is to build trust in Iraqi military forces and boost national pride for Iraqi citizens.

"Overall, this training is to demonstrate the capabilities of the Iraqi Army," Poppie said. "It is important for the people of Iraq to understand that they can rely on their army to keep them safe."

Iraqi soldiers also benefit from the live-fire exercise because many different military assets will work together to accomplish a common objective in a realistic training environment, explained Poppie.

"Mortar teams will fire live rounds as the commandos and special forces units fulfill their objectives using live AK-47 rounds," he said. "Iraqi soldiers, like any soldiers, love to shoot, and they are very excited about this event."

Many Iraqi soldiers benefited from the train-up for Operation Lion's Leap, said Warrant Officer Mubrad, Commando Battalion, 12th IA Div.

"We have been working hard to get ready for the demonstration," said Mubrad. "Already our soldiers have learned a lot, but I believe they will learn much more during the demonstration when they have live ammunition and the mortars are firing because it will show the soldiers how to operate in real combat."

Iraqi and U.S. military leaders attending the demonstration will be impressed with the speed and efficiency the commandos display as they accomplish their mission, Mubrad said.

Large-scale training events like Operation Lion's Leap are vital to the growth of both the soldiers on the ground and the Iraqi leadership, said Pappal.

Article by Spc. Andrew Ingram, U.S. Division-North Public Affairs