By Army Pvt. Jared N. Gehmann
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 30, 2009 - After five long days of intense training and battling a pair of fierce sandstorms, more than 20 Iraqi soldiers graduated from the "Cold Steel Training Academy" here yesterday. The academy was established for 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers of Company A, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, to advise and mentor their 45th Iraqi Army Division partners on their combat abilities.
It also sets the conditions for Iraqi soldiers to continue maintaining security in Salman Pak, a southeastern suburb of Baghdad.
"This five-day training program is in place to better equip Iraqi soldiers for combat in the field through the execution of different combat training exercises each day," said Army Spc. Cesar Lopez of Miami, an academy instructor and combat medic.
Lopez said the academy trains Iraqi soldiers in leadership, basic M-16 rifle marksmanship, reflexive-fire, reacting to improvised explosive devices, search and clearing tactics, preventive medicine and combat lifesaving.
The Iraqi soldiers received training in lifesaving techniques on their last day of training. "We showed them how to fix a hemorrhage in a person's airway, how to treat shock and how to apply pressure dressings and tourniquets," Lopez said.
The training instills confidence and strengthens unit cohesiveness, Lopez added.
"When a soldier knows what he is doing, it makes him want to be a part of the team, and that really helps with morale, but more importantly, it helps the overall strength of the unit in the long run," he said.
Iraqi soldier Wessan Abass, the academy's honor graduate, said the training helped him tremendously.
"My favorite part of the training was the leadership courses, because they not only help me as a soldier, but they can help me in my everyday life as well," he said.
Abass also said he also enjoyed qualifying on the range with the M-16.
"I have rarely shot with an M-16," he said. "I definitely have more experience with the AK-47. I learned a lot from the American soldiers, and had fun. Overall, I think that the training was definitely worth the time and energy, and I look forward to working with [U.S. soldiers] again in the future."
(Army Pvt. Jared N. Gehmann serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)