Capt. Tiffany M. Collins
4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Division – Center
Seen as a rite of passage among the U.S. armed forces, the Initial Entry Training graduation brings a certain enthusiasm and anxiety to the day.
That same elation was captured in Al Anbar, Iraq, recently as the passing of the flag from the senior graduating class of Iraqi Army soldiers to the junior class, symbolized change and the forward movement of troop now assigned to their first units while continuing their military service.
"Ten weeks ago you were civilians and now you are warriors for your country," Lt. Col. Jeffrey Shoemaker, commander, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Division – Center (USD-C), said, as he addressed the graduating class.
The most recent formation of about 1,250 troops marks the largest Initial Entry Training class to graduate from the Al-Habbaniya Training Center (HTC), with approximately 70 soldiers graduating mid to late December 2010.
Constructed on the west bank of the Euphrates River, the Al-Habbaniya Training Center dates back to 1936 when the British initially established the center as the Royal Air Force Station Habbaniya. It was utilized as a flight training school and a transport staging airfield during World War II.
Most recently, HTC was used by coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom as a forward operating base to run combat missions throughout Al Anbar Province, to include Fallujah and Ramadi.
Al-Habbaniya has now grown into a Regional Training Center, supporting both the 1st and 7th Iraqi Army Divisions that train about 12,000 soldiers a year.
Staff Col. Zuhair Dhurgham, assigned as the commandant for the past year and a half, comes from a long line of military officers. Previously charged with training the Iraqi Army’s military police, Dhurgham commands a cadre of 110 personnel.
In addition to the Initial Entry Training Course, the HTC also provides instruction for military occupational specialty (MOS) qualifications, the Non-Commissioned Officer Educational System and two unit-level programs—the Commando Course and the Warrior Training Program.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, director of Iraq Training and Advisory Mission, U.S. Forces – Iraq, declared HTC mission complete, signifying the U.S. forces advisory role as hands-on trainers, no longer necessary.
"With the downsizing of U.S. forces, the personnel no longer consist of specialized training teams," 1st Lt. Katherine Schultz, an Integrated Training Area Management (ITAM) adviser, said. "Essentially, our role at the Habbaniya Training Center now consists of working logistics requests through the Ministry of Defense."
Upon receipt of the mission to train more than 1,300 soldiers during this rotation, Dhurgham immediately began to request the necessary logistics capabilities. Simultaneously, he refocused all cadre and training efforts on the basic training mission.
Capt. Joe Pimentel, adviser for ITAM, who commands Company B., 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment., 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, USD-C, said the only assistance Dhurgham requested was refresher training for his cadre on the M-16 rifle.
The curriculum at HTC is similar to the U.S. Armed Forces Basic Training Course. It consists of basic soldiers skills, including physical fitness, basic rifle marksmanship, radio communications, medical skills, and values and ethics, adopted by Dhurgham from the "Army Values."
There are more similarities in the training curriculum at the HCT adopted from the U.S. Army. For example, the ever popular obstacle, "the weaver" can be found among the various obstacles at the HTC endurance course. And at the entry to every classroom, the latest version of the program of instruction is posted.
Recent additions were written by Dhurgham, approved by the Iraq Ministry of Defense and are now model doctrine for the Iraqi Army Basic Training Course.
Dhurgham said his cadre performed their duties and set new standards for training the Iraq Army.
"This course trains the professional soldier," he said. "They will make dramatic changes to the Iraqi Army. They love their country and their job and if the lord wishes, they will successfully serve and protect the country of Iraq."