By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 8, 2007 - U.S. soldiers leading operations in and around Mahmudiya, Iraq, have "cracked the code when it comes to working with the Iraqi army," their task force commander said today. Army Lt. Col. Morschauser, battalion commander for the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 15th Artillery, said his unit is doing more than simply training Iraqi soldiers. It's partnering with them at all levels – and yielding results.
"Our unit is heavily focused on the extremely important task of supporting and advising and providing advanced training to our Iraqi army partners so that they can operate autonomously in the near future," he said from Mahmudiyah during a conference call with online journalists and "bloggers."
That focus isn't limited to military transition teams within the task force, he said. "Our brigade has placed our entire battalion toward this mission, rather than a traditional 11-man MTT."
This arrangement brings a full task force of manpower to the training mission, enabling the soldiers to serve as partners rather than just advisors to the 6th Iraqi Army Division's 4th Brigade, Morschauser said.
"Our partnership grants us the ability to build relationships at every level, not just with the Iraqi command staff, but also down to the platoon and squad leaders and even the Iraqi squad members themselves," he explained.
Since arriving in September, Task Force 2-15 and its Iraqi "Baghdad Eagle Division" counterparts have conducted more than 847 joint patrols, 29 air assaults and more than 260 brigade, company and platoon-level operations, Morschauser reported.
They've detained almost 3,000 suspected insurgents, including Jawad Ubadd Khalif, a high-value target with suspected connections to executions and weapons trafficking. Military officials said Iraqi soldiers captured Khalif during a July 19 operation, working off intelligence provided by the task force.
Interviewed at the time of the capture, Morschauser credited daily combined operations between his task force and the Iraqis with making the capture possible.
"We do combined operations on a daily basis, whether it be ... mounted or dismounted patrols, working essential services in Mahmudiyah and the surrounding area, or conducting operations such as raids (or) cordon searches based on intel," he said.
In addition to nabbing terrorism suspects, those combined operations have netted 271 improvised explosive devices and 72 weapons caches, he told bloggers today.
Meanwhile, senior noncommissioned officers from the task force offer advanced infantry training daily to the Iraq troops. So far, 29 Iraqis have graduated from the newly created Iraqi commando course, which combines Army air assault and Ranger skills, and 112 Iraqi NCOs have been completed the warrior leaders course that focuses on tactical leadership skills, Morschauser said. This is in addition to several hundred other Iraqi soldiers who received advanced U.S.- or Iraqi-run specialty skills courses.
These training programs, and real-life application in the task force's 370-square-kilometer operating area, are paying off, Morschauser said.
"Overall, our Iraqi counterparts continue to improve daily and gain competence," he said.