Task Group Taji boosts local-trainer capacity

The New Zealand Defence Force’s combined training mission with Australia in Iraq has helped boost the capacity of the Iraqi military, with a third of the courses at one of the country’s main training institutions, Baghdad Fighting school, now being delivered by local instructors taught by the combined force.

CAPTION: A New Zealand Army soldier observes as Baghdad Fighting School instructors train members of the Iraqi Army’s 41st Brigade during a live-fire range practice at Taji Military Complex, Iraq. ADF photo.

Task Group Taji, the combined Australian-New Zealand training mission that began in May 2015, has trained more than 37,000 Iraqi soldiers for their fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Major General Tim Gall said that as part of an international coalition, New Zealand had been assisting the Iraqi military in rebuilding their land-combat force by providing effective training.

“Although Islamic State’s defeat is a clear achievement, the ultimate measure of success of the coalition’s Building Partner Capacity mission will be the Iraqi military’s ability to train their own forces to be better fighters,” Major General Gall said.

Lieutenant Colonel Jason Hutchings, the NZDF’s Senior National Officer in Taji, said New Zealand and Australian troops had been mentoring Iraqi instructors from the Baghdad Fighting School at Taji on how to plan, organise, deliver and assess a range of training programmes.

“The bulk of the training was focussed on core infantry skills such as shooting, marksmanship, fieldcraft and combat first aid,” he said.

Captain William McBride, Training Team Leader of Task Group Taji, said New Zealand and Australian trainers had been progressively handing more responsibilities to instructors at Baghdad Fighting School.

“We started with 70 per cent of the instruction delivered by the task group and 30 per cent by the Iraqi instructors,” Captain McBride said.

“We are aiming towards 50-50 in the next period of instruction.

“A recent live-fire training was delivered solely by Iraqi instructors, with New Zealand trainers providing only mentoring support.”

About 400 NZDF and Australian Defence Force personnel comprise Task Group Taji.

The current rotation, which deployed to Iraq for six months in June, is training about 1400 soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 41st Brigade.

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Brian Hartigan

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