By Melinda L. Larson
American Forces Press Service
July 1, 2007 – Iraq's military forces are committed to standing on their own, the officer in charge of their training told bloggers June 28, and he expressed confidence that Iraq's army, navy, air force and police will succeed. "What we do see from the Iraqis is a commitment to continuing to improve and a desire and a passion to be more responsible for all things military," Army Brig. Gen. Terry Wolff, commander of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team, said during a teleconference from Iraq. "They very much want to be able to do this themselves."
The Coalition Military Assistance Training Team is the military training arm of the Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq. The command was formed to help the Iraqi government train, mentor and equip Iraq's security forces. Wolff's team operates from two training centers in Iraq.
With each passing day, Wolff said, he is seeing the Iraqi forces take shape and evolve as they gain confidence in their decision making. "They are making decisions. With every day they are more in charge," Wolff said.
Wolff added that while he may not agree with some of those decisions, he is still encouraged.
"They tend to make decisions that we don't always agree with, but so be it. In many of those instances, they don't reflect a lack of desire or will; they reflect the fact that they're going to choose courses of action that may be just a bit different than the way we would do that.
"I cannot find fault with that, but that's the nature of sovereignty and the ability to make decisions for yourself and then have to deal with those consequences," Wolff added. "I continue to be encouraged by the fact that they are trying to improve."
The improvements of the Iraqi forces as they work toward autonomy are dealt with on many fronts, from leadership to logistics.
"We've had a lot of luck continuing to work with the Iraqi leaders to get them to better embrace some of the logistical challenges they have to work through," Wolff explained. "They're standing up a support command, which was something that we were working with them on, but we're getting a little closer to get the headquarters portion of it stood up. But the first step is getting our Iraqi brothers to buy into this and recognize its importance and utility, and they've begun to do that."
Transitioning the Iraqi military's vehicle fleet from contracted maintenance to their own repair shops is another challenge.
"They're trying to work through their maintenance challenges," Wolff said. "We have helped provide them over 14,000 vehicles, and now we're trying to help work with them to get them off a maintenance system which was mostly contracted to one in which they're going to do the maintenance themselves," Wolff said, adding the transition time for the turnover could take eight to 12 months.
While a lot of the training and build-up of a support force is happening behind the scenes, establishing a regional base logistical system to support the front lines is another priority.
"Some of the warehouses that they tend to operate from are a little further to the east than where the division's parent base is," he explained. "We helped establish a regional base logistical system for them, and what grows a little more complex is when you're using more of the force in an area that's a distance away from where that geographical base is.
"Higher-level division logistical officers are supposed to be looking out for that, so no soldier on the battlefield runs out of anything. I mean, that's the goal, is to make sure the fighting man's got everything he needs," Wolff said.
As the fight continues, Wolff said he and his transition team of coaches, teachers and mentors strive to give the Iraqi forces everything they need to succeed.
"To some extent, I think we all have a greater hope that the Iraqis continue to improve. We all want them to be better, and their leaders want them to be better too. There's no lack of desire here," Wolff said.
The general added he gets encouragement from the people around him. "My thanks go to all those great coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that continue doing this job every single day, and so they are who encourage me even more than my Iraqi brothers," the general said.