By Army Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick
Jan. 6, 2010 - With the help of a U.S. advisory team, an Iraqi border protection academy graduated its largest noncommissioned officer class yet on Jan. 4 following weeks of training here. With the commands "Parade rest, attention!" and "Double time!" shouted in Arabic, 99 Iraqi border patrolmen stood in formation in the early morning chill of Dec. 29 here, motivated to start the day. Physical training came first, led by a student who quickly earned the respect of his peers and instructors, according to U.S. Staff Sgt. Jammie Tucker, senior noncommissioned officer of the Diwaniyah stability transition team, part of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
The men were only days away from graduating from the 5th Department of Border Enforcement Academy – its largest advanced noncommissioned officer class yet.
The 5th DBE consists of border patrol, border police, customs, and two quick-reaction force battalions. The units cover four provinces including Diwaniyah, Najaf, Karbala, and Muthana. This most recent graduating class consisted solely of border patrolmen.
After physical training, the students ate breakfast, practiced drill and ceremony maneuvers in preparation for graduation, then moved into a classroom for instruction. Day 42 of the 45-day course was already in full swing and it was only 9 a.m.
The students had completed a vigorous course agenda including port-of-entry operations, personnel searches, check-point operations, reaction to terrorist and suicide bombers, and drugs and weapons smuggling, according to Maj. Ryan Yedlinsky, an STT deputy team chief.
"The students might sit in the classroom and learn about check-point operations for example," Yedlinsky explained. "Then they actually come outside, set up a mock check point and go through what they just learned."
Yedlinsky commended the academy's curriculum, but said the course is more than just a refresher for border patrol operations.
"We want to help them understand what they are capable of as NCOs," he said. "Initiative is the biggest thing we try to instill in the students. We hope they walk away with that."
Until recently, the Iraqi Security Force Noncommissioned Officer Corps was not considered for leadership, Yedlinksky said. Instead, NCOs took on roles of runners to officers.
"In addition to explaining the role of the NCO to the students here, we also explain it to the officers that we work with," Yedlinsky said. "We explain to the officers that they are very busy men and can rely on their NCOs. What we are starting to see now, especially in the staff sections, is the officers really using their NCOs."
With the 3rd HBCT's current advise-and-assist mission in Iraq, U.S. instructors show the students how American NCOs operate, then let them build their own style of leadership, Yedlinsky said.
"The Iraqis are capable people," he said. "This works for them because they live the culture and they know the people better than we ever could."
"The students take this course seriously," Lt. Hider, dean of the 5th DBE Academy said through a translator. "They are the first barrier of defense to protect this country. They should be proud. They represent the Iraqi Security Forces and they protect the people of Iraq."
(Army Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick serves with the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, public affairs office.)