Iraqi Forces Committed to Democracy, Rule of Law
By Jim Garamone,
WASHINGTON, March 14, 2003 — American service
members training Free Iraqi Forces are impressed by the exiles’
commitment to democracy and willingness to secure peace in their
Army Maj. Gen. David Barno, commander of Task
Force Warrior at Taszar Air Base, Hungary, said the Iraqi volunteers
will assist American and coalition forces in civil military operations
should military action in Iraq become necessary.
Free Iraqi Forces wear battle-dress uniforms with
"FIF" patches on their shoulders. In the field, the
volunteers will carry 9 mm pistols as self-defense weapons, officials
The Hungarian government will allow the United
States to train up to 3,000 members of the Free Iraqi Forces at
Taszar. Barno would not say how many Iraqis have been trained
The Iraqi volunteers come from all walks of life,
he said. The average age of the men is 38. They come from various
backgrounds and social classes. They include 18-year-old high
school graduates and 55-year-old grandfathers.
The exiles represent Shiia and Sunni Muslims and
Arabs and Kurds. "But the common thread with all of them,"
Barno said, "is their personal commitment to transforming
Iraq into a democratic country that follows the rule of law and
respects human rights."
The general said that many of the volunteers endured
hardships in Iraq and literally remade their lives outside their
native land. Now, they are ready to remake their lives again to
Volunteers go through a four-week course. The
two-week first phase covers self-defense, the law of armed conflict,
map reading, military customs and courtesies, drill and ceremony
and ethical decision-making.
"As part of their self-defense training,
the volunteers learn such protective measures as basic first aid,
land mine identification, training in the use of small arms for
self-defense and the use of protective equipment in the event
of a nuclear, biological or chemical attacks," Barno said.
In the two-week second phase of training, the
volunteers work with American civil affairs specialists from U.S.
Special Operations Command. Free Iraqi Forces will serve as invaluable
links among the U.S. military, international agencies, nongovernmental
humanitarian relief agencies and the Iraqi population, Barno said.
Once finished with the training the Iraqi exiles
go to the U.S. Central Command area of operations where they marry
up with their civil affairs units. The first cohort graduated
in February and is already with their units. The second cohort
is nearing graduation.
The American trainers, centered around the 1st
Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, from Fort Jackson, S.C., have
incorporated lessons they learned from the first cohort in the
most recent training session.
"I brought a group of trainers, who were
used to training U.S. 18- and 19-year-olds in basic combat training,
over here to train a very different group for a very different
purpose," Barno said. "Some of the same fundamentals
apply, but there are some differences."
These broke down into cultural and age-related
"With an average age of 38, the stamina and
fitness of the group is a bit different than 18- and 19-year-olds,"
he said. "But when lights out comes at 10 o’clock, we have
no problem putting anyone to bed. They’re ready to go to sleep."
From a cultural standpoint the use of peer pressure
and rewards was different.
"Providing various visible steps with symbolic
importance to them as they progress as a group was important to
them," he said. "We also found there is some sensitivity
to receiving any kind of individual recognition. It’s more appropriate
to give group recognition."
The volunteers all are screened before arriving
in Hungary, and they receive a stipend from the United States.
Only three have failed to complete the course, all for personal
or medical reasons.