Hungary Hosts Free Iraqi Forces Training Exercises


By Jim Garamone, AFPS

U.S. soldiers are training Iraqi exiles and expatriates at a Hungarian air base to aid U.S. forces should an invasion of Iraq become necessary.

About 700 U.S. soldiers are working at Taszar Air Base, Hungary, to train up to 3,000 Free Iraqi Forces, said Army Maj. Robert Stern, a spokesman for Task Force Warrior in Taszar. Americans in the task force dubbed the training area "Camp Freedom."

The Iraqi volunteers, many of whom were tortured by Saddam Hussein, will help U.S. and coalition units in dealing with civil-military affairs.

"The training of the first group has gone very well," Stern said. "These are motivated individuals who are looking forward to beginning their job in support of coalition forces."

He said the trainers are also happy with the way instruction is going. He said there were some bumpy spots at the beginning, but the Americans adjusted their style of instruction to fit the group. "Obviously, the first difficulty was having training conducted both in English and Arabic," Stern said. "Second, the drill sergeants had to change their styles from teaching U.S. basic trainees to training civilians."

The instructors changed their style, interaction and dynamics and said they would apply lessons learned to the next group.

The Iraqis’ training is divided into two phases. The first focuses on basic soldiering skills — marching, map and compass reading, radio operations, physical training, self- defense — military structure, and basic U.S. military terminology.

Officials stressed that the volunteers are not military and are not being trained to take part in direct combat. But they do need to know how to defend themselves. Therefore, they fire 9 mm pistols, identify land mines and learn defenses against a chemical or biological attack.

Civil affairs instructors take over for the second phase of training. The Army envisions the Free Iraqi Forces helping with interpreting for coalition forces, being guides, helping to handle refugees, helping administer refugee camps, dealing with POWs and helping with rear-area security. The Iraqi volunteers will advise commanders on local Iraqi attitudes and help commanders as they interact with the people of the country.

"The biggest role they will fill will be facilitating coordination between coalition troops, humanitarian agencies and people who need help," Stern said. "They will serve as the coalition link between nongovernmental agencies and the displaced citizens of Iraq."

The volunteers have all been thoroughly screened by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Many have lived in the United States for years. Others are more recent exiles. Ages of the volunteers run from 18 to 56, officials said.

The men will receive $1,000 per month with additional pay for supporting family members, specialty qualifications and recognized leadership skills.

The Americans training the volunteers come from 28 different Army units across the United States. The soldiers are the same who train officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers. Before the training started earlier this month, the Americans gathered at Fort Jackson, S.C., to prepare for the mission.

Once finished, the volunteers will fly to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. "The Free Iraqi Forces will be employed consistent with their capabilities and in concert with the coalition plans," officials said.