By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 31, 2008 - As Iraqi maneuver units continue to make great progress, coalition trainers must concentrate on "enablers" of the force, the general in charge of the effort to train Iraqi forces said today. Army Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, spoke to military analysts by phone from his headquarters in Baghdad. He said coalition and Iraqi planners understand that enablers -- combat service support functions for the military -- must make progress for the Iraqi military to be a balanced force.
The combat units of the Iraqi army are doing well; they are in the fight, and in many cases are leading the fight, the general said. These Iraqi maneuver units work closely with coalition military training teams and are being mentored by American and other coalition units.
"The maneuver side is the most mature, because that is the choice that we made," Dubik said. "In the last six months we established two division headquarters, three brigade headquarters and 10 battalion headquarters. That's a huge growth in their size -- about 40,000."
In addition, Iraqi units are receiving vehicles they need to accomplish their missions. Iraqi security forces now have more than 3,000 up-armored Humvees. They are receiving more than 100 BMPs, Russian-designed armored personnel carriers. The United States will transfer another 4,000 Humvees to the Iraqi military this year.
But combat service support enablers such as those specializing in intelligence, logistics, aviation, engineering and other combat support services are necessary for the Iraqi army to do its job independently of the coalition, Dubik told the analysts.
All Iraqi divisions now have intelligence officers, and intelligence networks linking battalions through division to the national network will mostly be in place by summer, he said.
"The first priorities for enablers we have put in place are aviation, logistics and life support," he said. "Once we get those squared away, we'll go on to the other combat service support specialties."
Dubik said Iraqis have made great progress in the air. "Aviation is very interesting," he said. "Iraqi aviators fly more than 300 missions a week now in support of their own army. Most (missions) are air mobility and surveillance and reconnaissance."
The Iraqis fly both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, and the "aviation side is getting really complicated with airspace management and air-ground coordination, but that's a good problem to have," he said.
In combat service support units, Dubik's command -- in consultations with Iraqis -- decided to take on life-support functions first. This includes food, fuel, pay and personnel matters. The Iraqis took this function over in 2007 and have made good strides, Dubik said, although fuel remains problematic.
Building up engineer units is going to be delayed, the general acknowledged. "We've got the explosive ordnance demolition school running, but won't be able to field all their equipment until late in 2009," he said.
In the "fires support" arena, Iraqi units will rely on coalition forces for artillery and close-air support for the time being, Dubik said. The Iraqi military is due to get mortars next year.
Building the Iraqi army's command and control is challenging, the general said, because the fledgling security forces lack numbers at the leadership levels.
"We're at 68 percent fill in officers and 64 to 65 percent fill in sergeants," he said.
The army has received 8,000 new sergeants in the last six months, Dubik said. This is a combination of reaching out to NCOs who served in the army of the former regime and taking honor graduates from enlisted courses and making them corporals.
All of this is signifies that the Iraqi military is growing, not only in size, but quality, the general said.
"While maneuver has been our primary emphasis and we are growing like crazy on that, we are starting to grow a more balanced force, and the expectation is that the Ministry of Defense will have a balanced force between 2009 and 2011," he told the analysts.