By Army Pfc. J. Princeville Lawrence
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 23, 2009 - Aided by U.S. forces, Iraqi soldiers with the 14th Provisional Transport Regiment gained valuable skills ranging from first aid to Humvee maintenance during a three-week course at Camp Mirra, Iraq. Members of the Military Transition Team assigned to the Iraqi regiment trained the soldiers, called "jundis," so they can then, in turn, train others.
Before their graduation Oct. 15, the soldiers first had to pass an intensive evaluation.
During the evaluation, the jundis were separated into teams and sent to three stations: combat first aid, weapons and vehicle maintenance. At each station, they were expected to know the subject well enough to teach it.
"This is it," Navy Chief Petty Officer Edward Telles told the jundis during the medical portion of the evaluation. "You either know it or you don't."
One by one, the jundis talked their way through an imaginary scenario, explaining what they were doing to Telles, who served as the evaluator.
"Every treatment is pretty much standard," said Telles, team doctor for the Military Transition Team assigned to the Iraqi regiment. "Once it works, we try to filter that down to everybody.
"What we know is what they know," he added.
Among the jundis was Iraqi army Pvt. Wesame Mahmoud, who said he joined the service because he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. His father spoke English and Russian and was a colonel in the Iraqi navy during the Saddam years.
Mahmoud, an administrative specialist, said he found the medical training most beneficial.
"The training is very good. We got a lot of information," said Mahmoud, noting that he used his medical training to help a friend who was injured during a soccer match.
"It's a good feeling to educate these guys and say, 'Hey, you're learning something that could save someone's life someday,'" Telles said.
Army Maj. Scott Virgil, transition team chief and training coordinator, closely monitored the training.
"We wanted to get some good material in the three areas of weapons, maintenance and medical treatment," Virgil said, "but we also really put an added focus on their ability not just to know it and do it, but to be able to teach it."
The positive attitude of the jundis made the job simple, said Army Sgt. Darren Macomber, who was placed in charge of weapons training.
"They're real easy to teach. They're all energetic and they show up on time," said Macomber, a mechanic with the 308th Brigade Support Battalion. "They retained information fast and well, and they're pretty much able to repeat everything I told them."
Under Macomber's watchful eye, during the evaluation, the jundis were called up to explain weapons safety and operation and how to assemble and disassemble a weapon.
"The most important thing we thought they learned from me was the safety aspect," Macomber said. "They pick up something, figure it out on their own, it seems like a lot of times. So I think it's good they're learning how to train each other on good habits."
The third section of the evaluation was the vehicle maintenance station. Army Sgt. Ian Grant, a mechanic with 308th BSB, had been training the jundis on basic vehicle maintenance, "exactly what they're looking for as far as leaks, and the troubleshooting they can do."
Grant's evaluation consisted of taking the jundis around, in and under a Humvee and having them explain the vehicle.
When the evaluation ended, the MiTT team members were pleased to find that all the jundis passed.
"They did excellent today," Grant said. "They picked up well on the training. In fact, I put out more information to them than I thought I did, and they all retained it really, really well."
Virgil addressed the graduates and said he now hoped they use their newfound knowledge to teach their peers.
"The doing and the teaching is what we're after," Virgil said, "and that's where, I think, long term, we'll have greater benefits."
(Army Pfc. J. Princeville Lawrence serves in Multinational Division South.)