Iraqi exiles trained by U.S. sent to Gulf region
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON, March 14 - The Defense Department has sent the first group of Iraqi exiles trained by the U.S. military at a base in Hungary to the Gulf region to help coordinate relief efforts during and after any war in Iraq, the general who led their training said on Friday.
Army Maj. Gen. David Barno, speaking by telephone from the air base in Taszar, Hungary to reporters at the Pentagon, declined to say how many Iraqi opposition volunteers were being trained, but said they were not being groomed to serve with front-line units in a war.
"It's more accurate to describe their role as being primarily in a humanitarian sense in assisting in working with our U.S. and coalition civil-military affairs organizations once combat has passed through an area," Barno said.
He said they would wear their own distinctive uniforms rather than U.S. military uniforms and would carry a pistol for self-defense. Barno said their language skills and their expertise in certain areas of Iraq would be invaluable.
NATO ally Hungary gave the United States permission to use the base to train up to 3,000 Iraqi volunteers. But there was no indication the number being trained even approaches 3,000.
Barno said he would not reveal the numbers of Iraqis who have received training for security reasons, but said there are "certainly hundreds available" for possible training.
Barno said they were being trained to help distribute relief supplies, work with people displaced by a war and help coordinate efforts by agencies like the International Committee of the Red Cross, Red Crescent and the U.N. refugee agency.
The training in Hungary is just one of the ways that the U.S. military is using Iraqi exiles ahead of a possible war with Iraq. The Pentagon also is hiring Iraqis living in the United States and western Europe to help with postwar reconstruction and relief efforts and play a temporary role in the Iraqi government ministries.
Barno said he expected three groups of Iraqis to undergo separate four-week training sessions at Taszar. The first group, made up primarily of Iraqis living in the United States and Canada, had completed its training and was sent about two weeks ago to the Gulf region to join units already deployed there, Barno said.
A second group of Iraqis from western Europe is in training now and should be done by the end of March, he added, and a third group was set to start in a week or two.
Barno said the Iraqis being trained ranged in age from 18 to 55, with the average about 36 to 38 years old. He said they came from diverse backgrounds and some had previous military training. He said there were both Sunni and Shiite Muslims, adding that Iraqi Kurds were in the mix. He said "a lot" had college degrees and one even had a doctorate.
"They're very mature. They're very focused. They understand exactly what they signed up for. And they're incredibly committed to this effort," Barno said.
Barno would not give details on how much money the United States was paying those being trained, other than to say it was "a very limited stipend to cover essentially their expenses." Officials in Washington earlier said they would be getting up to $1,500 a month.
Barno said the Iraqis were trained in self-defense, the law of armed conflict, map reading and "ethical decision making." He said they were also trained in using small arms for self-defense, detecting land mines and the use of equipment to protect them from chemical or biological weapons attack.


Ft Jackson Leader News

1-61 Inf soldiers' morale high while deployed
Sgt. Shawn Woodard

Drill sergeants assigned to Fort Jackson have one primary mission - to train soldiers to Amy standards. Currently, some have taken that mission halfway around the globe.
Nearly three months ago, Fort Jackson Commanding General Maj. Gen. David Barno, and soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, deployed to Taszar, Hungary to train free-Iraqi volunteers.
Unlike being faced with obstacles like civilians adapting to become soldiers, these drill sergeants are now faced with different obstacles like training foreigners and overcoming language barriers.
"It's pretty interesting being deployed as a drill sergeant," said 1st Sgt. Bruce Nettles, Company B, 1st Bn., 61st Inf. "It's been a different experience so far training foreigners."
Nettles and other soldiers in the unit have made a smooth adjustment to their new living conditions. However, several of the soldiers have been faced with a few obstacles since their arrival. The soldiers said they had somewhat gotten used to training in an environment like Fort Jackson. Now, they're training individuals who speak a different language on foreign soil.
"Other than the culture and the language barrier, it's like training any other soldiers," said Nettles. "The primary focus of our mission is to get each of the free Iraqi volunteers to work as a team and participate in training." Soldiers like Staff Sgt. Marvin Castillo, Company D, have similar views regarding the training objective. Castillo said it's been a lot like training soldiers in basic training because of the long hours that are required to train these individuals. "Sometimes, you just don't know when it's going to end," he said.
But, other than the training and long hours, Castillo said that the soldiers have continued to maintain a high level of morale. Because many of the soldiers are seasoned NCOs and have experience with deployments, they've adapted to their situation. Sgt. 1st Class Robert Corrigan, Company C, said that his current mission is similar to his mission during his Bosnia rotations. Although Corrigan has been in similar situations, he's still faced with obstacles of his own. He said he has had to adjust from training 18-year-old soldiers to training 50- to 60-year-old foreigners. It's also difficult to enforce discipline because they do not respond to the same training tactics as young American soldiers.
Being required to work long hours and overcome numerous obstacles, soldiers look forward to finding ways to unwind. Castillo said soldiers are allowed to make 10-minute morale calls. They're also equipped with computers with web cams and a video teleconference setup.
Soldiers who are deployed all across the globe intend to accomplish their missions. But, without the support of family members, the mission could be difficult.
"This deployment is like any other," said Staff Sgt. Eric Kraft, Co. D. "You have to make sure to keep your family informed about everything. I'm asking my family to remain adaptable because things change all the time." Nettle said these soldiers all understand that they have a mission to accomplish and have remained professional about being away from their families.
"I've been part of the military for nearly 20 years," said Nettles. "And my family have support me through all the difficult times."


Tribune Newspapers Thursday April 3, 2003

$90M program to train Iraqi volunteers is shut down

A U.S. project that was supposed to train 3,000 Iraqi dissidents to be liaisons between American troops and Iraqi civilians has been shut down indefinitely.
After months of preparation and publicity, the $90 million Program at an airbase in southwest Hungary managed to draw just 82 recruits.
U.S. military officials at the base near Taszar, Hungary nevertheless said the effort was successful and that Iraqi exiles who went through the program are helping U.S. troops deliver humanitarian aid to the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr.
Maj. Robert Stern, a spokesman for the program, would not disclose how many Iraqis took part.
A top official in the Hungarian government who spoke on condition of anonymity said Wednesday that 82 Iraqi dissidents participated - 56 in the first wave that arrived in late January and just 26 in the group that finished training this week.
The volunteers ranged in age from 18 to 55, though most were in their late 30s. The roster included members of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority and the Sunni minority as well as several Kurds. All of them had a basic understanding of English.
Hungarian government officials have told local media that Budapest regarded the program's shutdown as the end of Hungary's contribution to the war effort.


Daily Press April 23, 2003 - BAGHDAD, Iraq

U.S. troops arrest fighters found looting

U.S. troops arrested fighters of the U.S. backed Free Iraqi Forces on Tuesday after they were found looting abandoned homes of former members of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Fighters of the group have been caught repeatedly while looting homes in an enclave in Baghdad where members of Saddam's Baath Party lived, said Army Staff Sgt. Bryce Ivings, of Sarasota, Fla.
On Tuesday, soldiers from A Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment detained four suspected looters dressed in the group's desert camouflage uniforms and carrying rocket-propelled grenades, Ivings said. The men, who did not speak English, were taken to a prisoner of war detention center.
Some of the Free Iraqi Forces were trained, uniformed and brought to Iraq by the U.S. military to help U.S. troops.
(Emphasis added.)


Pictures taken at the Veterans of 1/61 sponsored Welcome Home Picnic are part of the picture file from Ft. Jackson and are linked here.