Fort Leonard Wood's 50th MRBC teaches at Iraqi Army Engineer School
By: Capt. Vanessa Bowman/Army Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE TAJI, Iraq (July 14, 2009) — Soldiers from the 4th, 5th, and Headquarters, Iraqi Army Field Engineer Regiments partnered with 50th Multi-Role Bridge Company from Fort Leonard Wood, a part of Joint Task Force Eagle, to train on Mabey and Johnson Bridge emplacement at the Iraqi Army Engineer School from July 3 to 13.
The Iraqi Army Engineer School trains 400 to 500 Iraqi Army engineers each rotation. The 50th MRBC, which supports the 555th Engineer Brigade, assists this effort by instructing groups of 20 to 30 IA Engineers during ten-day blocks of classroom and hands-on bridge training.
"The 4th and 5th IA FER Soldiers we trained with before are helping to teach the soldiers of Headquarters IA FER," explained Staff Sgt. Jason Peace, 2nd Section Sergeant, 1st Platoon, 50th MRBC from Felicity, Ohio. "Teaching helps progress their knowledge."
The combined IA and U.S. training team instructs, advises and assists the new class of IA Engineers on site layout, bridge set parts identification, bridge emplacement, inspection, repair and maintenance.
"During this block of instruction we are teaching them how to do the bridge site set-up," said Staff Sgt. Fernando Villa, 1st Section Sergeant, 2nd Platoon, 50th MRBC from Tucson, Ariz. "We are showing them how to do all the measurements for the pickets, rolling and leveling the site, and placing the ground beams that will support the bridge."
Facilitating the partnership training by translating course materials, technical manuals, and training site instructions is Sgt. Mootaz Al-Sultani, 50th MRBC Crew Chief and Bridge Park non-commissioned officer in charge. Al-Sultani, who now calls Arlington, Texas home, emigrated from Baghdad with his parents in 2000.
"During the classroom portion, we pass out hand-outs that have been translated," explains Al-Sultani.
Al-Sultani also coordinates logistics and synchronizes scheduling with the IA FERs and the IA Engineer School. Peace and Villa describe Al-Sultani as a critical factor to the success of their mission.
"This training would not have happened without Al-Sultani," said Villa.
IA FER Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Mohammed, another co- instructor, said the IA Engineer School's shortage of translated technical manuals and classroom aids requires the constant presence and assistance of translators. Al-Sultani's ability to simplify and translate the language and meaning of the material helps mitigate the challenge of teaching IA engineer soldiers, many of whom have very limited reading and writing skills.
"The classroom portion is the hardest because so many have trouble with reading and writing," explained IA FER 2nd Lt. Hader, IA FER Platoon Leader and co-instructor.
Because of the challenges in the classroom the hands-on part of training is what both the instructors and students find the most useful.
"The hands-on part is much easier and when the Soldiers learn the most," verified IA FER Platoon Leader 2nd Lt. Retha, who previously served as an enlisted Air Defense Engineer. "Even if the concepts that we are training are new they are picked up very easily by the Soldiers when we get to the hands-on part."
Peace, Villa and Al-Sultani gather the group together at the end of the day to review the training and outline what the Soldiers can expect from the next day.
"Good job today getting the site laid out and the ground beams set," said Peace. "Remember what you did today because tomorrow you will see it in class."
The goal of the ten-days of training is to enable the students to learn all the skills necessary to emplace, maintain, inspect, repair and remove a 15-meter span of Mabey and Johnson Bridge by themselves.
"It's amazing how fast they've caught on to the training," said Capt. John Davis, 50th MRBC commander as he watched the IA students take the lead on the independent practical exercise portion of the instruction. "It's great to see the IA Engineer soldiers doing this on their own."