IRAQ: Untangling 10 Years’ Worth of Warfare

November 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm Leave a comment

Covering Their Own 6

One thing Army Command Sergent Major Joseph Allen says he never expected to see was a U.S. M1A1 Abrams tank commanded by an Iraqi soldier.

“Scary thought, scary thought,” Allen told a Defense Department Bloggers Roundtable Wednesday (Nov. 9).

Iraqi soldiers assigned to the 9th Iraqi Army Division navigate an M1A1 Abrams tank during training with U.S. soldiers assigned to 69th Armor Regiment at Joint Security Station Al Rashid, Iraq in 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Gary Silverman)

But Allen says he has gotten over his shock and is convinced the Iraqi Army is better off now as U.S. Forces prepare to depart the country by year’s end. He said the Iraqi Army is better equipped and trained “than the army which we destroyed.”

“We have rebuilt the Iraqi Army from the ground up in recruiting, equipping and training,” says Allen, a veteran of 35 years in the Army. During that time he served in Grenada in 1985, Saudi Arabia during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and in Iraq three times.

Allen, the top U.S. Army non-commissioned officer in Iraq, told bloggers that the U.S. military is working its way through the “monumental task” of shipping 10-years-worth of equipment out of Iraq to Kuwait and eventually home, as well turning over hundreds of military bases and facilities to the Iraqi government. Most of the stuff being left behind — like generators, air conditioners and containerized housing — has been battered by Iraq’s harsh climate for the past decade and isn’t worth the cost of taking home, he says.

At the height of the Iraq War the U.S. had over 500 bases around the country, now U.S. forces are in the process of turning over the last 11 to the Iraqis.

But “Iraq is still a very, very dangerous place, and our soldiers know it” Allen says. As the U.S. military presence shrinks from a high of 160,000 to 30,000 today – and virtually zero by Dec. 15 – there are still combat deaths. The latest fatality on Nov. 4 was a soldier shot by a sniper. Allen says senior Army non-coms are making sure their troops are staying alert “and keeping their heads in the game.”

The greatest security risk is potential kidnapping of U.S. personnel, Allen says. Intelligence briefings indicate “there is a credible threat out there,” he adds. As U.S. convoys carrying equipment out of the country head south to Kuwait, soldiers are instructed to stay in their vehicles and “never, never go any place with anyone … That’s a recipe for ugly things to happen,” he says. There have been no kidnappings, Allen added.

While most Iraqi military units have the capability to back up U.S. forces if they are attacked, the U.S. Army is not relying on them as the main source of security. “We understand that we have to cover our own 6,” Allen says, referring to the pilot’s term for watching your back. Another continuing threat is the roadside bomb or improvised explosive device (IED). But the military is much better at detecting and destroying IEDs than it was a few years ago, he says.

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Entry filed under: Counter Insurgency, Iraq, Lessons Learned, National Security and Defense, Skills and Training, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , .

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