HIT, Iraq (June 21, 2008) -- A group of Fightertown Marines from various air station commands is training and advising Iraqi Police here with one goal in mind; to create a self-sustaining police force capable of providing security to their community.
The Marines, volunteers from Marine (All-Weather) Fighter Attack Squadron 533, VMFA-115 and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31 left the Air Station nearly a year ago to begin training for their role as Police Transition Team 23.
After volunteering for the mission, the team was sent to Camp Lejeune, N.C. to begin a four-month training program.
“The training began in the classroom for us,” said Lance Cpl. Jeremy Cooper, a PTT-23 machine-gun operator. “During our classes, we learned to speak some Arabic and learned about the Iraqi culture. Our instructors really stressed that we learned to interact with the people here and it has helped us do our job since the first day we arrived.”
They quickly moved from the classroom to the field, where they learned advanced marksmanship, convoy operations, defensive driving in urban environments and other skills that would help them train their Iraqi counterparts.
The final test of their training before deployment took place in a simulated Iraqi town at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twenty Nine Palms, Calif., according to Cooper. The team had to move through the town, clearing houses and guiding their convoy through various situations that could occur when they reached Iraq.
“Overall the training prepared us for the basic needs of the job and also emphasized preparing us for the worst case scenarios,” said Lance Cpl. George Seifert, a machine-gun operator and force protection coordinator for PTT-23.
After arriving here, the Marines began working closely with the Iraqi Police and Provisional Security Forces, explained Cpl. Clifford Sandy, a vehicle operator for PTT-23. The team performed drills to test the IP stations’ vulnerability to attacks and re-enforced what the IPs already knew about basic police tactics and checking vehicles for explosives.
“I think the IPs have improved a lot since we first got here in January,” Sandy added. “They have gotten better with administration and have become more involved with their community.”
As the IPs have improved in their mission, the role of the team has also changed, according to Gunnery Sgt. Patrick Jordan, the commander of PTT-23.
“We have shifted to an over-watch position,” Jordan explained. “We advise them, patrol with them and offer constructive criticism when needed. They are doing very well and often just need some reassurance.”
With nearly seven months in country and their time here drawing to a close, the team maintains a positive outlook about their mission and the Iraqis they served with.
“They are well on their way toward being a self-sufficient police force,” added Sandy. “I almost wish I could stay and watch the progress of the police stations here.”