U.S., Australian and New Zealand forces strengthen coalition forces in Iraq

Military forces from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, New Zealand army, and Australian army joined together with Iraqi security forces to conduct a training exercise as part of a three-month course tailored to conduct close air support techniques and close combat attack training.

U S Australian and New Zealand forces strengthen coalition forces in Iraq
A New Zealand army instructor (left) explains a battlefield training scenario to an Iraqi army student during the Iraqi forward air control course live-fire training exercise March 8, 2018 in Besmaya, Iraq.(Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Leticia Samuels)

Rockets sliced through the air as AH-64E Apache Guardian pilots assigned to the 7th Battalion, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 449th Combat Aviation Brigade destroyed the fictional enemy during the Iraq Forward Air Control Course live-fire training exercise in Besmaya, Iraq.

"This will help ISF integrate Iraqi fixed wing and rotary wing assets into the ground scheme of maneuver which is a force multiplier on the battlefield," said U.S. Army 449th Combat Aviation Brigade assistant future operations officer Maj. Warren Green. "Our goal is to help demonstrate the capacities of attack rotary wing assets and show the effectiveness of operating jointly with air and ground maneuver elements."

The 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron facilitated the three-month long course by mentoring and advising ISF students. The students learned about CAS, which is air action by fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft against hostile targets that are near friendly forces. They also learned about CCA, which is an attack helicopter maneuvering and firing in direct support of a ground force that has come into direct contact with the enemy.

These smaller exercises led to the culminating exercise where students were given a battlefield scenario and graded on successfully completing a five-line radio call that provides pertinent information for air assets to perform the CCA maneuver, correctly destroying the enemy.

A U.S. Air Force battlefield airman explained that the students aren't required to learn English as part of the course. "When we are working with the coalition, the student will speak Arabic through a radio to an interpreter," said the airman. "The interpreter will then pass that information on to one of the instructors, whether that be one of the Australian instructors or one of us in the [U.S.] Air Force and then that instructor will pass that information to the pilot. It's basically a way for us to be able to allow the student to control [aircrafts] in their native language without speaking or learning English to talk to the pilot."

The 7th Battalion, 17th Cavalry Regiment Alpha Troop standardization officer, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jon Hunt, said that to meet their training objectives along with supporting the IFAC students training objectives, they incorporated procedures based off guidance in doctrinal aviation manuals used to coordinate fires. This helped mitigate the biggest obstacle associated with working with the host nation.

"The biggest challenge was ensuring that both nations were talking the same language and incorporating some of the same tactics that we would actually use if we had to work together in a real-live scenario," said Hunt. "Also, just trying to understand what they truly meant based on what they relayed and ensuring that target correlation was exactly the same from both our perspective and their perspective prior to us engaging the target."

This combination of separate forces working together reinforces the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve's mission to help the host nations become a self-sustaining force, allowing relief of coalition forces.

"The biggest advantage was actually getting out there and validating what we train when we are not using Joint Tactical Air Controller and validating what we are training each other on from doctrinal manuals and Technical and Tactics Procedure that we have used in the past," said Hunt. "The most important thing about this is that we're engaging the enemy without creating any hazards or dangers toward friendly [forces] and syncing all those fires up in unison."

The 7th Battalion, 17th Cavalry Regiment provides attack reconnaissance support and other assets to the 449th Combat Aviation Brigade in its overall mission supporting CJTF-OIR. This type of training not only builds interoperability, but also enables ISF to mirror similar strategies and concepts used by the U.S. forces.

"This is important in building partner capacity and supports ISF stability operations through influence, messaging, mentorship and partner development," said Green. "It also facilitates unity of effort across coalition forces, [the] government of Iraq and ISF."