July 18, 2009:
The process of building Western-style leadership in the Iraqi Army is making considerable progress, especially with respect to the Iraqi Army's NCO (non-commissioned officers, sergeants) corps. Developing NCOs has been a major priority for the coalition and the Iraqis and now that the Iraqis have thoroughly trained their sergeants in the basics of being a non-commissioned officer, many of these sergeants are beginning to enter more advanced leadership courses run by the coalition and US forces.
Previously, much of the development training for the Iraqi NCOs was focused on turning the sergeants into teachers and mentors for privates and corporals, as well as making them competent tacticians so they could take up slack for incapacitated (dead or wounded) officers. This meant instruction on basic military skills, like marksmanship and small-unit tactics, that the Iraqi sergeant would learn well enough to be able to train their regiments and battalions without the help of on-site coalition advisors.
Much of this training has been completed and large numbers of Iraqi NCOs are moving into more advanced, technical courses that focus on actual battlefield planning and leadership, which are the other core responsibilities of NCOs in Western armies. The US has recently developed its final advanced course for Iraqi NCOs, dubbed the Master Trainer Course (MCT), designed specifically for junior NCOs. The war fighting aspects of the course are, for obvious reasons, geared primarily towards counter-insurgency. The core subjects taught are planning offensives and cordon-and-search operations before the troops go into battle.
Iraqi 10th Division soldiers are the first to receive instruction in the MTC, with five sergeants from each battalion attending the course. Specific topics include classes on using maps and detailed terrain models, and planning specific types of missions, like searches and raids. The course concludes with an exercise in which the Iraqis have to plan and conduct an operation of their own using the skills taught in the classes.
With many, if not most, of the Iraqis' sergeants having received basic, intermediate, and finally advanced NCO training, US forces are more confident that the Iraqis can handle, on their own, whatever is thrown their way. Previously, the sergeants had the skills to teach basic battle skills to their subordinates and to actively take charge during a firefight. Of course, that means very little without the skills to adequately plan operations before the troops themselves gear up. That's what the MTC is set up to do and it seems to be working.