MANDALI, Iraq – The Iraqi Army’s 5th Division was out in force throughout eastern Diyala Province during a three-day division validation exercise.
Two of the division’s three brigades have already been certified as being combat ready and prepared to take charge of their assigned sectors. Now, the division itself is seeking this validation.
“This operation is a rehearsal about how to receive the orders and planning this mission and conducting this mission with two brigades,” said Iraqi Maj. Gen. Ahmed, 5th Division’s commander. “This is to see how our capabilities and how capable our staff is to conduct these missions.”
On this day, Brig. Gen. Essa, who commands the 1st Brigade, was patrolling near Mandali. He visited members of his 2nd Battalion, who are stationed throughout the area, and took time to stop and urge his Soldiers to continue their efforts to defend Iraq from insurgents.
While 1st Brigade’s mission was a training exercise, it still had a desired real-world effect. Members of the United States Army’s Military Training Team accompanied their Iraqi counterparts, but participated only as observers.
“The validation exercise for the division was designed to test their reporting and command and control at the division staff level,” said Lt. Col. Don Mosman, who serves as the MiTT leader. “First Brigade had a specific mission to conduct some searches. They had target areas established by the division [intelligence office].”
After visiting 2nd Battalion Soldiers and a lunchtime meeting, 1st Brigade was off again. This time, they stopped at a refugee encampment near Diyala.
While there, Essa visited with the camp’s residents and they told him of their difficulties there. Iraqi Soldiers also handed out toys to nearly 50 children who lived there.
“The Iraqis continue to develop their ability to conduct civil-military operations,” said Mosman, an Army Reservist who normally works as a financial adviser for Wachovia Securities in Richmond, Va. “It’s a part of the overall division operation and brigade operation just in support in of the main effort.”
A 1985 James Madison University graduate, Mosman said the stops are invaluable to the Iraqi Army’s efforts to establish themselves among the population. The rapport can only aid them in disposing of insurgent forces.
“It allows the Iraqi commanders on the ground to interface and work directly with the local leaders,” Mosman said. “It also gives them a chance to meet the actual villagers who live and work around the area.”
“It shows the local population that the Army is here to defend them, to support the government and look out for their interests and their security here in the eastern part of the province.”
For his part, Ahmed said he has been pleased with his Soldiers’ performance. He said most of them have been with the division since it was founded in 2004, and have participated in many history-making exercises, including three elections in the past year.
“I am proud of my division, and I am very proud of my Soldiers also,” Ahmed said. “They are very proud because they have participated in building this country.”
“When they are conducting operations, they feel like they are giving something to this country.”
Ahmed cited a battle last month between his Soldiers and insurgents as proof of his unit’s maturation. He said his Soldiers let insurgents know they are a force that will be reckoned with in Iraq.
“They were trying to send a message that the country is not stable and the country is stable,” Ahmed said of the insurgents. “They were trying to show the people they are in control, but we surprised them and we fought them.”
“We sent the message that there is no place for insurgents in Iraq.”
There are global ramifications to the success of Iraqi Army forces here, Ahmed said. He said their victory here is vital to all freedom-loving people.
“There are no insurgents who can win over the Iraqi people,” Ahmed said. “This is the start of their failure in Iraq and hopefully they will fail all over the world.”
“We will win the war against terrorism.”