Iraqi soldiers test mortar skills with live-fire exercise
Iraqi mortar platoons assigned to 1st Battalion, 11th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Army Division, conducted a live-fire exercise using 60mm and 81mm mortar systems to test their weapons proficiency at Destiny Range in Ninewa province, Iraq, Jan. 26.
U.S. Soldiers of 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, facilitated the training, part of Tadreeb al Shamil, or All-Inclusive Training, an Iraqi training program to build IA capability to conduct national defense operations.
"I've been to four different mortar training events, but this was the best of them," said Pfc. Naife Ibrahim Hamoud, an infantry mortarman assigned to 1st Bn., 11th Bde.
During the first week of training, U.S. instructors employed a train-the-trainer concept to teach Iraqi mortar unit leaders the basics of firing and maneuvering mortar systems, calculating distance and trajectory, and communicating with forward observers.
Under the supervision of U.S. instructors, the Iraqi officers and senior noncommissioned officers then offered their knowledge to Iraqi soldiers, explained Staff Sgt. Damion Cunningham, an infantryman and trainer from 1st Sqdn., 9th Cav. Regt.
"It's very important to teach these guys how to use mortars for them to support their companies and battalion-level efforts," said Cunningham.
Knowing how to effectively use indirect fire systems is necessary to support infantry units in the field when artillery is unavailable, he added.
During the live-fire exercise, Iraqi mortar crews applied their knowledge gained during previous weeks as they coordinated to deliver fire on targets more than 1,000 meters away.
Fire controllers initiated fire missions requiring crews to deliver a certain number of rounds down range as they synchronized efforts with other teams, explained Cunningham.
"It's very important that these guys know their jobs because they are the future of Iraq," said Cunningham.
The teams were very motivated to finally get the chance to prove their skills on the range, said Naife.
Naife said he and the other mortar soldiers are now ready to take the training from their U.S. counterparts and extend it to fellow soldiers and units.
Following the successful completion of the exercise, the Iraqi mortar crews rejoined the rest of 1st Bn., 11th Bde., to become the first Iraqi Army battalion to graduate from the Ghuzlani Warrior Training Center, near Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 27.
As the advise and assist role for Operation New Dawn continues across U.S. Division-North, the "Long Knife" troopers of the 1st Sqdn., 9th Cav. Regt., 4th AAB, now focus on training the remaining battalions of the 3rd IA Div. at the Ghuzlani Warrior Training Center.
Article by Sgt. Shawn Miller, 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment