Story and photo by Sgt. Chad Menegay, 196th MPAD, 25th Inf. Div., USD-C
BAGHDAD—Soldiers with Company C, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division-Center, worked with Iraqi Army 9th Armored Division Soldiers during M1A1 Abrams tank drivers training Jan. 15-16 at Camp Taji, Iraq.
“We focus on driving M1A1s to drive Iraq forward into the future and for the betterment of the people of Iraq,” said Iraq Army Jundi Anwar Hakim Khidher Al-Janabi, a tank commander with the 9th Armd. Div., out of Camp Taji.
All 140 M1A1s that the Government of Iraq has purchased from the U.S. are to be issued to the 9th Armd. Div. in monthly installments by the end of 2011, following a transitioning process at Contingency Operating Site Hammer, Iraq.
The 9th Armd. Div. tankers will attend a 45-day New Equipment Operator’s Course (OPNET) this spring at the Besmaya Combat Training Center, Iraq.
The OPNET curriculum will lead Iraqi Army tankers through everything the Soldiers need to do as a crewman and crew in order to operate the tank effectively, starting with basic tank safety and ending with crew gunnery exercises,” said Sgt. 1st Class Philemon Jones, a platoon sergeant and master gunner with Company C, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. and an Arkport, NY, native.
Armor crewmen with Company C, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. are training the Iraqis on individual tasks in preparation for OPNET.
“The training will allow them to have a base of information, so (at OPNET) they can concentrate on the crew tasks instead of the individual tasks,” Jones said.
The M1A1s will give Iraqis confidence in their equipment, precision in their engagements, pride and a new level of prestige, he said.
“(Now) they’re on the same level as other countries and can defend themselves against internal threats as well as external threats,” Jones said.
The M1A1s will help the current situation and control terrorist activities, said Iraqi Army Jundi Hazim Swadi Jaber, a tank loader with the 9th Armd. Div..
“We will move forward, ahead of neighboring countries, in our technology; we’ll have an advantage,” Hazim said. “I’m proud, because I’m learning a new tank with technology that will help to fight the terrorists.