Military Trainer uses Police, Recovery and Army Skills to Train Iraqis

MUQDADIYAH, Iraq – An Army Reserve officer serving in northern Iraq has now had to answer a quick call to service twice.

Army Reserve Capt. Andrew Berry watches training
Near MUQDADIYAH, Iraq Army Reserve Capt. Andrew Berry (right) watches training with one of his Iraqi Army counterparts. Berry, a retired New Jersey police officer, works to train the Iraqi Army to be self sustaining.

Capt. Andrew Berry, a member of the Military Training Team assisting the Iraqi Army’s 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 5th Division, was called to active duty from the Inactive Ready Reserve. He is now a member of the 80th Division based in Richmond, Va., and serving in Iraq.

“I got the call to report to Camp Atterbury, Ind., for mobilization,” Berry said. “Now, I’m part of the 101st Airborne Division.”

It wasn’t the first time in his life that Berry, a retired Newark, N.J., police officer, had gotten a sudden call to move out. The first call came on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was working for a private construction company in New Jersey,” Berry said. “We were called to bring our heavy machinery into New York City to the World Trade Center about 16 hours after the buildings came down.”

Berry’s 20-year law enforcement career working in emergency services made him very useful on the scene of the attack’s aftermath.

“When we got there, NYPD found out that we had a lot of retired police officers,” Berry said. “So, for security purposes, they used us to chauffer their trucks and assist ESUs (emergency service units).”

Berry said the smoke and the confusion were what he remembered most. It’s a memory that comes to mind almost every day.

“The first day there and that first night were amazing,” Berry said. “The New York City Police Department and Fire Department did a phenomenal job keeping people out and getting people safely out of the area.

“It was not something I would ever want to take part in again, but I’m glad I was there and was able to help.”

Berry, who lives in Carlstadt, N.J., said he used to be able to see the World Trade Center buildings from his house. Now, there is a void in the landscape, but not in his memories of that horrible day.

“It’s one of the things I would rather forget,” Berry said.

In Iraq, he serves as a team leader with one of the many Military Training Teams located in Iraq. The teams train Iraqi Army units to prepare to take charge of their assigned areas of operation.

On this particular day, Berry was here to ensure Iraqi Army Soldiers were taught how to use 60mm mortars. His team had worked with these Soldiers before, but today they were conducting live firing with the tube-shaped weapons.

With his New Jersey accent, Berry was quick to point out his concerns to the Iraqi Army lieutenant who was in charge of the Iraqi Soldiers this day. Berry was quick to praise Soldiers who are doing well and equally quick to give a critical critique as well.

“The MTT team is pretty unique,” Berry said. “We live, sleep and eat with our Iraqi counterparts.”

In his role, Berry has forged many strong relationships with his Iraqi counterparts. He said he has enjoyed getting back into the business of training Soldiers.

“The Iraqis feel that our team is part of the Iraqi Army,” Berry said. “We are there to mentor them, to assist them, to train, and in the event, to fight with them.

“We have met a lot of friends along the way.”

Berry has also become close to his U.S. team members. One of his coworkers praised his leadership skills.

“He’s a great guy to work with,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin William Custer III, who serves on Berry’s team. “We are a small team so it is a very close environment.

“We get to know each other more as far as NCO and officer. Since it’s just a few of us, it’s kind of different since we have to mold together in order for us to accomplish the mission.”

Berry, who began his military career in 1980 and became a commissioned officer in 1983 after graduating from Officer Candidate School, truly cares for his team members, Custer said.

“He takes good care of us,” Custer said. “He’s kind of like an NCO with officer rank.”

After this deployment, Berry said he will take some time off to spend with his family and then return to work. He will also remain in the Army Reserve where he hopes to make major before he retires.

Specialist Lee Elder is a photographer and writer with the 133d Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, based in Iraq.