By CAPT Anna-Lise Brink
During a live fire training exercise at the Besmayah Range Complex in Iraq, Iraqi Army Forward Observers crunched their numbers and coordinates, and called in Iraqi helicopters and jets to strike their targets.
CAPTION: Iraqi Army officers view a target during an advanced forward observers course at Besmayah, Iraq. Photo by Corporal David Said.
The week-long live-fire component of the Advanced Forward Observer course was the culmination of a four-month training effort by personnel forming Australia and New Zealand’s Task Group Taji.
After initially running a train-the-trainer course for previous top Iraqi Army performers, Australian and New Zealand trainers worked with new assistant instructors to provide training to other Iraqi Army personnel, including dry fire training with Iraqi Army helicopters.
Royal Australian Air Force Air liaison officer and joint terminal attack controller Flight Lieutenant James Bevin said the live-fire component was an important step in the process.
“It provides that element of realism that you don’t get from dry training,” he said.
“When you see the real-life effects of the weapon on target, it completes the whole training process and forms a crucial part of understanding the application of close air support.”
He said the Iraqi trainees and instructors grew and improved throughout the training continuum.
“The flow and ability to produce the information required in a quick timeframe increased significantly, which ultimately leads to weapons on target quicker.
“It was also good to see the Iraqi instructors encouraging the students to take ownership of the processes which they can now use in the future.”
Under the supervision of Task Group Taji and Iraqi instructors, the Iraqi Army trainees determined their own position, plotted enemy grids, requested air strikes and observed the attacks by Iraqi Eurocopter EC635s helicopters, F16 fighter jets and coalition F15 Eagle fighters.
Iraqi Army assistant instructor Lieutenant A said the training was critical for an important new role in the Iraqi Army.
“When the jet or helicopter arrives on the field, (the pilot) needs someone to talk to him, [as an accurate guide to] where the target is and where the enemy is,” he said.
Lieutenant A completed the initial training course seven months ago and enjoyed becoming an assistant instructor to help build Iraq’s forward observer capability.
“It was an amazing opportunity to work with the Australian Army, get the knowledge from them and transfer this knowledge to the Iraqi Army officers and privates,” he said.
This was the last time Task Group Taji would run an advanced forward observer course, with other members of the coalition to now take over the training.
It is hoped with further training, the Iraqi Army will eventually be able to run its own advanced forward observer courses.
Flight Lieutenant Bevin said TG Taji created considerable exposure to the Iraqi Security Forces about the benefits of air-land integration and had provided a solid start for them to grow this capability into something much greater .