The Iraqi Army School of Infantry Non-Commissioned Officer II (SINCO II) marked a significant milestone last week by achieving Initial Operating Capability ahead of schedule.
CAPTION: Australian Army officer Captain Jeremy Duff (centre), deployed with Task Group Taji 8, speaks with an Iraqi Army soldier before the Mission Rehearsal Exercises at the Taji Military Complex. Photo by Corporal Oliver Carter.
The school, based at the Taji Military Complex, 20 kilometres north of Baghdad, can now conduct 75 per cent of its training activities without coalition assistance.
SINCO II has been supported by the Australian and New Zealand-led Task Group Taji, part of the broader coalition’s Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.
Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that New Zealand’s commitment to the training mission would conclude in June next year, but would begin to wind down starting next month.
She said that her Cabinet had decided the deployment in Camp Taji will scale down to 75 troops from July and to 45 troops in January before the mission ends in June 2020.
Currently the 9th rotation of Task Group Taji, including 95 Kiwi troops are deployed alongside about 300 Australians at Camp Taji, on a mission that commenced in February 2015, training Iraqi Security Forces as part of the Building Partner Capacity mission.
Commanding Officer of the Taji Training Task Unit Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Smith said last week’s declaration of Initial Operating Capability was the result of significant hard work by the school over a long period.
“This represents a milestone for the Taji campaign plan; a transition towards training that is solely led by the Iraqi Security Forces,” Lieutenant Colonel Smith said.
SINCO II is responsible for training personnel from Iraqi Army brigades who in turn work to secure and stabilise areas in Iraq, which have recently been liberated from Daesh.
The training is focussed on enhancing core infantry skills including weapons handling, marksmanship, explosive hazard awareness, combat first aid, urban operations and combined arms operations. Students are also provided lessons on the Laws of Armed Conflict.
In line with achieving IOC, Australian support to SINCO II has transitioned from direct training of Iraqi soldiers to train-the-trainer and mentoring activities.
Australia’s efforts are now focussed on supporting the Iraqi Army to reach full operating capacity at SINCO II.
Ms Ardern said she had spoken to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morison about New Zealand’s drawdown, who she said had reacted positively to the news.