The first batch of NZ/Aus-trained Iraqi soldiers is ready to fight Daesh after graduating on Sunday.
Soldiers of the Iraqi 76th Brigade are the first to graduate from New Zealand and Australian Defence Force training, with the group leaving Taji Military Camp to join the fight against Daesh.
More than 700 soldiers from the brigade, which is part of the 16th Division of the Iraqi Army, marched out on Sunday at the conclusion of its training, the first cohort in the Australian/New Zealand Building Partner Capacity training mission at Taji.
76th Iraqi Army Brigade Commander Brigadier General Ali Khalid Abdullah Ali said he and his men felt ready to reclaim their country and take the fight to Daesh.
“I want to thank the Australian and New Zealand forces for all that they have done to train my soldiers,” Brigadier General Ali said.
“The graduation for this many soldiers who have been armed with the newest weapons represents a huge force to fight against Daesh.
“We are soldiers and we receive our orders from our commander.
“Wherever they are going to send us we are ready for Daesh.”
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Major-General Tim Gall said the eight-week training programme had been well received by the Iraqi troops.
“Our trainers have covered a range of individual and military skills, including basic weapons handling, small group tactics, urban operations as well as the planning and conduct of operations, including medical and logistics support,” Major-General Gall said.
“The aim from the start was to get these soldiers to a standard agreed by the Iraqi Ministry of Defence and we have achieved that.”
Task Group Taji Commander Colonel Matt Galton said the graduation represented an important phase in the Brigade’s preparations for the counter-offensive to take back Iraqi territory, and ultimately defeat Daesh.
The Brigade’s training focused on the planning and conduct of operations, weapon handling, basic tactical maneuver, integration of intelligence, leadership and ethical behavior in war.
“The BPC training mission is a crucial element to enable the Iraqi Security Forces to reclaim and hold their territory from Daesh,” Colonel Galton said.
Colonel Galton said the Australian and New Zealand trainers had also developed strong bonds with their Iraqi counterparts.
Major-General Gall said he was both proud of the training outcome, and the work New Zealand Defence Force personnel had undertaken to establish themselves at Taji Military Camp.
“Working with the other coalition partners and getting this training delivered within just a couple of months is a testament to how well-trained, adaptable and professional our personnel are.”
Major-General Gall said New Zealand trainers and support staff had learned quickly and were coping well with the environmental conditions including 40 degree heat, a dry wind and plenty of dust.
“Taji is an established military camp but it is a tough austere environment. Early support by an advance party of NZ and Australian soldiers meant critical infrastructure was developed prior to the main contingent arriving.
“Personnel are making themselves as comfortable as they can be – the food is good, the accommodation is basic but comfortable, there is a great gym for keeping fit – our people are settled enough to be playing touch rugby, which is great to see.
“It’s also encouraging to watch the confidence of the Iraqis grow as they receive the training, and to hear from them that they are feeling confident and motivated to take on Daesh.”
A comprehensive pre-deployment training strategy was designed by a team of specialists including linguists, security force assistance, training evaluation, coaching and mentoring, and irregular warfare. The design team also looked deeply into cross-cultural adult training and cross-cultural adult learning.
As well as formal training, the New Zealand contingent is modelling the behaviours and values of a professional Army, demonstrating how a modern and professional defence force operates.
The government announced in February the deployment of up to 143 New Zealand Defence Force personnel on a combined mission with the Australian Defence Force to help build the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces, in order for the Iraqi Security Forces to tackle the threat of Daesh.
The Building Partner Capacity mission is a non-combat mission for a two year period, with a review to be conducted after nine months.
Senior Iraqi Defence personnel, including the Iraqi Military Training Commander, Major General Sabeeh Bahlol Aatee and Commander of the 16th Division, Brigadier Sabah Fadil Mutar, attended the graduation ceremony.
Australia and New Zealand were represented by the Australian Ambassador to Iraq, Ms Lyndall Sachs, the New Zealand Defence Force Senior National Officer – Iraq, COL W and the Acting Commander of Headquarters Joint Task Force 633, Brigadier Nagy Sorial.
Task Group Taji will now shift its focus to the 1st Battalion of the 71st Iraqi Army Brigade, which commenced training on 24 June 2015.
In addition to the ADF’s BPC commitment, Australia’s Special Operations Task Group continues its Advise and Assist mission to build the capacity of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service, while the Air Task Group continues to plan and conduct regular airstrikes as part of the US-led international coalition air campaign against Daesh targets in support of Iraqi Security Forces operations on the ground.