AL-ASAD, Iraq --
In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Iraqi people are showing progress through their government works, rebuilding projects, and police and military operations. At Al Asad Air Base, Iraqi soldiers work in conjunction with the Marine Corps, keeping the air base secure by manning the main entry control point aboard the installation.
According to Master Sgt. Joseph P. Beall, Charlie Company first sergeant, Marine Wing Support Squadron 274, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), the long term goal is to turn over all entry control points to the Iraqis.
“This is a very long term goal, but you’ve got to take baby steps first,” said Beall, a Savanna, Ga., native. “The best thing about this is that we are putting an Iraqi face on an Iraqi job.”
At the ECP, the Iraqi soldiers focus on checking manifests, searching vehicles and counting the number of Iraqi soldiers, police and local nationals entering base. After the checks, the soldiers relay the information to MWSS-274.
Though the Iraqi soldiers have only been on the gate for little more than a week, they’ve already shown signs of progress.
“They’re adjusting to their job; learning who can come on base and the regulations they must follow,” said Beall. “As the days go by, we see less and less of the (Military in Transition Teams).”
To train for their post mission, MiTT-0720, 7th Iraqi Army Division, instructs the Iraqi soldiers on security, weapons handling, inspections and search training, with a large emphasis on dealing with the public.
“They’ve come a long way since we started,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Q. Magann, military police advisor, MiTT-0720, 7th Iraqi Army Division.
Magann has worked with the MiTT team for the past six months and says the language barrier is one of the largest obstacles the two forces encounter.
To overcome the language difficulty between the two militaries, the Marines and Iraqi soldiers use interpreters, but mainly rely on hand and arm signals to communicate effectively.
“Things get a little difficult when there are two different languages involved,” said Cpl. Ryan S. Gagnon, dismount and combat lifesaver, MWSS-274, “But sticking your thumb up is the universal signal for ‘okay’.”
Iraqi Pfc. Abdul Star Shaker, intelligence soldier, MiTT-0720, feels this training helps the Iraqi soldiers learn the proper way to do their job.
For Shaker, being an army soldier holds more meaning than checking identification on gates or securing an air base.
“I joined the army to help protect the Iraqi people and help stop the aggression of the insurgents because they kill innocent people,” said Shaker. “We all have that responsibility as Iraqis.”