By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
April 18, 2008 - Iraqi army units are being fielded more quickly thanks to coordination and a streamlined process, a U.S. Army official told military analysts during a conference call from Baghdad today. The process of recruiting, training, equipping and basing new units of the Iraqi army has been greatly reduced over the past year, said Army Col. James Scott.
Scott is the director of plans and force generation for Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's Coalition Army Advisory Team. The seven-person team is responsible for coordinating the efforts to develop Iraqi army units.
"Presently, we are tracking seven brigades, separate battalions that ... once they go through the process, will become part of the Iraqi army," Scott said.
When Scott arrived 11 months ago, he and his team began streamlining that lengthy procedure and whittled it down to less than half the time it used to take.
"It was a nine-month process for all those aspects ... basing, manning, equipping and training," he said. "We were able to (pare) it down and synchronize it into a three-and-a-half-month process from start to finish."
The culmination of the process is the issuance of equipment and three weeks of training on it, or what Scott and his team refer to as "Unit Set Fielding."
"We've seen great success in that," he said. "We've taken a brigade, newly formed, newly organized (that has gone through all its training), issued them their equipment, trained them on it, and then released them ... to their battle space in a higher state of preparedness to go ahead and conduct combat operations."
Scott referred to a unit sent to its battle space from training one day and was conducting operations the next. "They were being cited with success on the morning update, the brief to General Petraeus," Scott added, referring to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commanding general of Multinational Force Iraq.
Despite the success that's been realized in building the Iraqi army, things Americans take for granted can make the process more difficult, Scott said.
In the Iraqi banking system, for instance. Scott said Iraqis don't have direct deposit and other modern conveniences that allow them to ensure their pay has been safely deposited in their accounts.
Unlike Americans, who can send a check or click a mouse to transfer funds to a family member or pay a bill, Iraqis have to physically transport the cash.
"The pay system in their military is where the United States was in the 1920s," he said. "In other words, the soldiers ... in the Iraqi army, they get paid in cash."
Iraq's banking and pay system problems can affect military recruiting efforts, he said.
"To facilitate that, we try to accommodate and address that fact by recruiting soldiers to join units that are going to be operating in, around and near where their village is," Scott said.