Friday, February 09, 2007

Iraqi Individual Replacement Training

Sean Harder, reporting for Georgia's Savannah Morning News, reveals that 143 or more US troops deployed to Iraq from Fort Stewart last month missed their final combat exercise, and one eighteen-year-old soldier is already dead:

Last week, one of those soldiers - Pvt. Matthew T. Zeimer, 18 - was the first from the brigade to be killed when he was hit by enemy fire in Ramadi, the stronghold of Iraq's Sunni insurgency.

Zeimer arrived at Fort Stewart on Dec. 18 after basic training and deployed to Iraq just a few weeks later. He missed the brigade's intensive four-week mission rehearsal in October when more than 1,300 trainers and Iraqi role-players came to the post as part of the most realistic training program the Army offers for Iraq operations.

The fact some of the brigade's 4,000 soldiers missed that training raises questions about how well the Army is preparing troops for war in the face of accelerated and repeat deployments.

Zeimer did attend Individual Replacement Training, a 10-day course that trains soldiers in weapons use, Iraqi cultural awareness, rules of war, first-aid, navigation and dealing with media.

Individual Replacement Training or I.R.T. is exactly what it sounds like: a theater-specific course for fresh troops (or returning troops) to prepare them so that they can replace troops already deployed.

A Google search reveals that the length of I.R.T. varies from base to base, ranging from seven to ten days total (and if you followed that link, you'd also probably be wondering like me, why it is that Googling "individual replacement training" returns such a small amount of results, considering we've been at war for six years).

"Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Division, acknowledged the pace of deployments means some soldiers 'show up later than you'd like,'" Harder reports. "He said IRT, however, gives troops all the war-fighting skills they need."

Perhaps Zeimer didn't need the "most realistic training program." Perhaps he had all the training he needed. Perhaps the time spent in I.R.T. learning how to "deal[ing] with the media" helped hone his war-fighting skills more than "realistic training" would have.

I've never gone through the training and can barely find any information on the specifics of the exercises or procedures, so I have no way of knowing enough to say that it's ridiculous that an eighteen-year-old could learn all he needs to know to fight in a war in only ten days.

But I can ask one question, at least.

Why the hell aren't Iraqi troops and police getting swift I.R.T. so we can pull our brothers and sisters out of Iraq sometime fucking soon?

While I have no idea if ten days is enough, I'm damn sure that going on four years should be long enough to make some sort of significant progress. I mean it's not like Bernard Kerik spent enough time over there to fuck things up like the Oklahoma hacks who ran FEMA for Bush.

But, according to this McClatchy Newspapers article, written by Tom Lasseter, "[m]any of the Iraqi forces whom the U.S. is counting on to defeat Sunni Muslim insurgents, disarm Shiite Muslim gunmen and assume responsibility for keeping the peace have been infiltrated by sectarian militias and are plagued by incompetence and corruption."

"Two weeks with American units that patrolled with Iraqi forces in west and east Baghdad found that Iraqi officers sold new uniforms meant for their troops, and that their soldiers wore plastic shower sandals while manning checkpoints, abused prisoners and solicited bribes to free suspects they'd captured," Lasseter reports (and make sure you follow the link to read about the "pornography on a cell phone" incident).

Lasseter writes that because of the poor state of Iraq's fighting forces a "U.S. withdrawal almost certainly would mean even more widespread carnage," (which his editor should have told him was at least arguable) then adds that "[c]ontinuing to prop up the Iraqi forces, however, almost certainly would lead to more American casualties, but not necessarily to victory," which is why escalation is not much of a strategy.

"Iraqi troops are 'immeasurably' better than they were, and they continue 'to gain in both confidence and in capability,' U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said Monday," Lasseter continues. "Although the U.S. has spent $15.4 billion since 2003 to train and equip Iraqi forces, Caldwell conceded that the country's military and security forces still have 'deficiencies in both leadership and logistics, and have yet to win the trust of Iraq's ethnic and sectarian communities.'"


$15.4 billion spent over the last four years, and hardly anything to show for it but 3,115 dead Americans.

In all seriousness, I doubt it would take much more than an hour of I.R.T. to prepare the next Administration in 2008 more than the half-ass squad that sold us this pile of shit in the first place (unfortunately, I have to put "us" because even though plenty of us knew better, we didn't have any say in the matter, and our cries of Caveat Emptor went unheard).


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