By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
March 26, 2008 - The Iraqi security forces are days away from publishing their first uniform weapons-qualification standards, a senior U.S. official charged with helping the Iraqis build and train their troops said today. Iraqi forces, until now, have managed weapons qualification at the unit level with local commanders deeming how and when their troops are trained, said Navy Capt. John Andrews, chief of staff for the Joint Headquarters Advisory Team from Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.
The new uniform standards will help measure readiness across the force and also help commanders budget and request ammunition and other logistics support needed for qualification, Andrews told a group of civilian defense experts via teleconference from Iraq.
Andrews said the standard was needed to make training more efficient and decrease training time. While Iraq has many ranges available for weapons training, most have no standard design or layout and lack automated targets, he said.
Also, the idea of one standard across the force was a new concept to most commanders. "A division commander would probably (say), 'It's my division. I'll train them, or I'll say they're trained when I say so.' And we're going contrary to what they've done in the past," Andrews said.
But, he added, most were not opposed to the new standard, just unfamiliar with the concept.
The weapons training will mirror that of U.S. troops, Andrews said. The standards also include close-combat qualification.
"They have one of the best close-combat ranges and (urban training) facilities that many have seen," Andrews said. The sites include cameras that record and play back the exercises for after action reviews of the training.
The new qualification standards will not only help with readiness in the force, but also will help develop the Iraqi military's logistics branches. The standard will help commanders develop yearly training ammunition requirements, allowing upper echelons to manage securing and delivering the rounds.
"Not only do we know the standard, but we know how many bullets it should take for each soldier to qualify. We have that laid out there and can budget and facilitate the logistical processes associated with that," Andrews said.
Andrews said he was not sure how the new standard would be implemented across the forces, but most likely, new recruits will be trained to the new standard, while others already in the field will be trained to the new standard during yearly requalification.
Iraqi forces issue U.S. M-16A4 and M-4 rifles and Soviet AK-47 rifles as individual weapons. Andrews also said that qualification standards are being designed for larger crew-served weapons.