Task Group Taji doubles training effort in Iraq
Two battle-hardened Iraqi Army brigades arrived simultaneously at the Taji Military Complex north of Baghdad to prepare for future battles against Daesh.
More than 2500 Iraqi soldiers received four weeks of combat instruction from Task Group Taji, which includes about 300 Australians and 100 New Zealanders.
Task Group Taji Commander Colonel (Col) Andrew Lowe said the massive increase in training numbers had required immediate changes to the task group’s training unit structure and battle rhythm.
“Our first action was for the training unit to create an additional training team, bringing the total to six,” Col Lowe said.
“Our second was to double the time spent training the Iraqi Army, including delivering periods of instruction in the heat of the afternoon and at night.”
Col Lowe said the Iraqi Army’s push to expel Daesh from its remaining stronghold in the north of the country had resulted in an operational requirement to equip and train brigades at a rate not seen in the campaign thus far.
“This was the first time the demand for training had been raised to such a level in the 16 months since the task group began its mission to help the people of Iraq,” he said.
“We have generally been training around 600 soldiers each month, mostly drawn from the Iraqi Army training schools located at the Taji Military Complex.”
The current rotation of the task group, which deployed to Iraq in May, trained one brigade in August, two brigades in September, and received another two brigades in October.
This means the task group is training around 3000 Iraqi soldiers a month.
The training has included marksmanship, combat first aid, obstacle breaching techniques, urban operations and live-fire exercises.
“Commander 16 Div Staff Major General Sabah is a battle-experienced commander who came straight to Taji from the frontline,” Col Lowe said.
“He held an after action review with his brigade commanders and battalion COs, and invited the senior members of Task Group Taji’s training teams to attend.
“He said he had no time to reflect on the positives from the recent victories at Ramadi and Fallujah.
“Instead, he discussed the division’s mistakes with a view to making improvements for the fight against Daesh in Mosul.
“He then turned to our trainers and listed 16 points for them to inject into the training.”
These included operating by night, avoiding setting patterns, developing proficiency in weapons systems, becoming experts in marksmanship, choosing snipers wisely and empowering NCOs to take charge if their officers were wounded or killed.
“It was a privilege to witness the meeting,” Col Lowe said.
“It was as though we were back home in our Combat Training Centre after a battle group warfighter,
listening to ways we could improve for the next exercise or operation.”
The success of the Australia/New Zealand mission was symbolised by a single soldier among the thousands trained to date.
Lance Corporal (LCpl) Zaid is a 26-year-old father-of-two from Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad.
In June last year he was taught how to apply a tourniquet by trainers from the first rotation of Task Group Taji.
In November last year he was hit by machine gun fire during the battle for Ramadi. As he proudly displayed the scars from six bullet wounds in his legs, LCpl Zaid said he stayed calm when he was shot.
“I didn’t have a tourniquet, but I had been taught to use anything to stop the bleeding,” he said.
“I tore my trousers in half and tied a tourniquet on both legs. Eight months after I was shot, my son Amir was born.
“I want to thank the soldiers for teaching me about the tourniquet and saving my life.”