By Army Sgt. David Hodge
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 20, 2008 - Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers conducted explosive ordnance training with Iraqi security forces bomb disposal technicians Nov. 16 at this base in southern Baghdad. Soldiers and leaders from the 752nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, attached to the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, detonated a van full of munitions to train soldiers from the 9th Iraqi Army Bomb Disposal Company on the proper techniques for effective post-blast site exploitation.
"I think this training is important for the Iraqi EOD, because it gives them a chance to see how we operate," said Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Cunningham, a team leader assigned to the 752nd EOD Company.
The soldiers packed the van with about 200 pounds of military-grade munitions to properly depict a real-world scenario.
The Iraqi technicians have plenty of robots, and their bomb suits and knowledge are up to date, Cunningham said. "They know what they're dealing with," he added, "especially when it comes to conventional ordnance."
The training keeps the Iraqi soldiers on their toes and contributes to the fight in the long run, said Army Spc. Curtis Garner, an EOD specialist assigned to the 752nd EOD Company.
"They seem really responsive, and they have a good grasp on what they are doing for their country," Garner said. "We just offer them a different avenue, outlook or thought process."
Garner said he believes the Iraqi team leaders are competent and capable enough to introduce new concepts previously not practiced by their bomb squad.
"In the beginning, we received good training and knowledge from our friends," said Lt. Col. Neve Rathwan Risa, commander of the 9th Iraqi Army Division Bomb Disposal Company. "They have good experience, and hopefully we will develop ourselves to deal with the improvised explosive devices."
Risa said he stresses the importance of knowledge and training to his soldiers and that he believes the exercise was a good opportunity for Iraqi bomb disposal technicians to train with coalition forces.
"It's very important to have this kind of branch in the new [Iraqi Army] to deal with all the roadside bombs and to disarm any explosive devices and make the roads safe for the people and the army," Risa explained.
The team is one of the leading bomb disposal companies in the Iraqi army, Army 1st Lt. Brad Lewis, an EOD technician assigned to the 752nd EOD Company, said.
"These guys played a big part in the push for Sadr City earlier this year," he said. "Since, we have been trying to work them by establishing training programs [and] training of the younger soldiers, and getting them to the point where they could pass the EOD school in Basra."
This type of training signifies what the Iraqi security forces need to eventually take control of another operational area, Army Maj. Mike Ricciarti, liaison to Multinational Division Baghdad EOD operations, said.
Coalition forces are a better-equipped and trained force over the last five years, he said, adding that he believes improvements are on the horizon for his Iraqi counterparts.
"We are mentoring them, and we are assisting on levels that we can," he said. "We're sharing tactics, techniques and procedures that will help them stay alive and continue on with their mission."
(Army Sgt. David Hodge serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)