A Typical Iraqi Soldier

November 30, 2008 at 6:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

June 1, 2008

Things have been going well since my last post and we are settling down into a steady state similiar to what we had at Ramadi with just more combat type operations, patrolling, checkpoints, etc thrown in. We have removed all but two of the rows of seats in our room and I now have a cot instead of sleeping on the ground. We didn’t gain any room though since we acquired 7 new Marine augments that brings our personnel numbers more in line with a Marine Corps sourced Brigade leveal training team. We are glad to get the extra troops as it allows to keep our COC/TOC (Command Operations Center/Tactical Operations Center) up at all times and not having to tear down all of the radios when we would pull the whole team for a mission. The bad part is that the septic tank that holds our bathroom waste has filled up and we are having a hard time getting someone to empty the tank, too many issues with it to discuss here, but that means we are only getting showers when we get back to the main division camp every 4-6 days and our waste has to go into either a bottle or a bag and then get burned, so we are having lots of fun there.
I’ve been taking pictures and then writing blog posts on my night radio watch so I’ve got a few posts worked up and since I had a little extra time at our camp where the internet is I thought I would post one fairly quickly after the last. I hope everyone enjoys.
For this post I wanted to talk about the Iraqi Soldiers. For the most part the junior enlisted soldiers in the Iraqi Army are not that different from American Soldiers or Marines. See the pictures below.

This picture is actually one I took while we were at Ramadi from one of the platoon checkpoints we used to man just outside of the city. Check out the soldiers in the last row. The first soldier has on a Marine body armor, and hanging off of the body armor is an Oakley sunglasses case, and he has Marine issue ammunition pouches and first aid kit placed on the body armor in the same way that a Marine would place them on his body armor. The same soldier has a night vision google mount on his helmet and the many of the Marines and Soldiers wear their sand googles turned around backwards just like he is wearing it. The second soldier in line is also wearing US Military Issue sand googles and the third soldier has an old style night vision google mount on his helmet.

If you look at the above picture you will see that the soldier has an optic of some kind placed on the front of his AK-47. Almost all US forces in Iraq have a scope or close combat optic an Infrared Aiming Device for night operations, a surefire flashlight and a forward pistol grip on their M4 carbines. It is not unusual to see an Iraqi Soldier attach an optic like this one to their AK-47. I actually looked through this soldiers optic and it does have a lighted crosshair in it, but it appears to be from an Airsoft style BB-gun and it is held on with parachute cord and duck tape and is not real stable. I wouldn’t want to try and use it, but the soldier was all excited and proud when I took an interest in looking at it. I’ve been told that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I guess the American Soldier and Marine should be flattered that the Iraqi Soldiers want to be like them. Personally I think that Iraqi Soldiers have the right amount of motivation, and with the right training and the right leadership Iraq will have a very professional army in the near future. The problem is the current leadership, some are better than others, but as the old Saddam era officers fade away and retire, hopefully the nepotism, cronyism, and corruption, and the suppression of the non-commissioned officer corps will fade away with them.

These last two pictures I found amusing. As in all the majority of other third world countries there are no copy right laws. If there were copyright laws, I want to know when did Tommy Hilfinger come up with a line of Tactical Accessories? This soldier bought this load bearing vest in a local market and every ammo pouch on it has a Tommy Hilfinger logo sewn on to it. I guess brand names are as important to some Iraqis as they are to some Americans. Also as with the first picture you see that non brand conscious Iraqi Soldier is wearing an old green camouflage body armor and once again has much of the same “flare” that you see on American Soldiers and Marines, this Iraqi has flexi cuffs, d-ring with gloves, night vision google mount and an hand held radio. He is wearing a stocking mask, not because it is cold outside, it was actually closer to 105 degrees this day, but because he is from southern Iraq and does not want to be recognized by someone who doesn’t know he is in the army and may threaten his family.
I have an excellent example of a Soldier who has been threated because he is in the Army. My G-1 counterpart Lieutenant Colonel Jumaa and his family live in Sadr City. He went on leave just before the latest round of violence with the Mehdi Army, sometime around Easter. His leave was only supposed to be 9 days. He called the Brigade Commander and let the Brigade commander know that the situation in Baghdad had turned violent and that the Brigade should not let Soldiers go on leave for awhile. Several days later he he called again and said the situation had calmed down and that Soldiers could go on leave, but that he would not be able to return to the Brigade since members of the Mehdi Army in his neighbor hood had threatened him and his family if he returned to the Army. Lieutenant Colonel Jumaa stayed at his home, supposedly under house arrest from about Easter until the latest Mehdi Army ceasefire around Memorial Day, almost two full months. I’m not total sure about his story since there is some rumblings that he might be involved in the Mehdi Army and I don’t think he is the most competent of the Iraqi Officers , but it is an example of the threat that every Iraqi Soldier faces while serving their country.
Finally as I go out on patrol and interact with Iraqi Soldiers I have asked many of them what their families think about the Brigade moving to Basrah. I was actually surprised that most of them had not told their families, since a large number of the soldiers in the Brigade is from southern Iraq; Al Nasirayah, Al Mayranah, areas not too far from Basrah. When questioned why they hadn’t told their families the overwhelming response was that they did not want them to worry because at the time the Brigade moved down here Basrah was supposed to be a dangerous place. So the Iraqi Soldier is just like American Soldiers that don’t always tell their families when they are in danger. Don’t worry I haven’t been in any danger in Basrah, yet.
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