Thursday, December 01, 2005

Peacekeeping: No Old Soldiers in the New Iraqi Army


"No Old Soldiers in the New Iraqi Army

December 1, 2005: Sometimes, you can’t teach an old soldier new tricks. In Iraq, the training of the new Iraqi army has moved onto another level, with Iraqi troops, who have already been trained by Americans, now serving as instructors. That eliminates the language and cultural barriers. Earlier, American instructors used a translator to tell their trainees what they were saying. American soldiers (often visiting Special Forces troops), who spoke Arabic, noted that sometimes things were lost in translation. This was because the translators were usually unfamiliar with American military terminology and practices, and used the wrong words. Sometimes the American instructor would catch this, sometimes not.

The new Iraqi instructors are still coached and observed by American trainers, to make sure nothing is missed. The American training is quite different from the Russian style stuff used for decades. Actually, the Russian style was not much different than the “Arab” style of training, which also relied on rote learning. The American style aims to get troops to not only perform vital tasks automatically, but also think for themselves. Not all Iraqi trainees accept this concept, and it takes some work just to explain what it is and why it is good. Both the Iraqi trainers and trainees have to accept this new style of soldiering. But since most Iraqis can see American troops in action, they can better understand how this style of operating produces better results. Unfortunately, for older officers and NCOs, the old ways often prove impossible to discard. Thus the new Iraqi army is noticeably “younger” than the one that served Saddam, especially when it comes to officers and NCOs. Of course, a lot of Saddam era officers are not allowed to join the new army because their loyalties are still with the old government. If that doesn’t come out during initial interviews, it is usually revealed when these veteran officers interact with the younger “new army” officers."

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