CAMP MEJID, Iraq – In an instant, an assembly of hostile pedestrians can flood the streets of a city with one mission — to make their point known through force. Small business owners' livelihoods can be pillaged and burnt to the ground. Innocents might be battered bloody and even killed. Millions of dollars of property may be destroyed and lives changed forever. But the 7th Iraqi Army Division won't allow it on their turf.
This type of situation is just what 7th IA Div. trained for with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, and Military Transition Team 7 aboard Camp Mejid, Iraq, Nov. 1-11, 2009. IA soldiers trained to use a variety of nonlethal weapons, hand to hand submission techniques and tactics for disbanding groups involved in incidents ranging from civil demonstrations to violent confrontations.
"This course is basically an instructor trainer course, where we teach a select number of Iraqis, officers and soldiers, from around the division," said Staff Sgt. Thomas Sanford, military police advisor, MiTT-7. "Now they can actually respond with a riot team of soldiers, who are trained to talk a crowd down, disperse the crowd and use nonlethal munitions and batons."
Marines bashed into Iraqi riot shields, trying to break their defensive line, but the soldiers held their ground and kept the rioters from advancing. The IA soldiers ensured their own safety using riot shield techniques and prevented rioters' volatile attacks with swift baton strikes.
"We've taught them to use nonlethal batons, how to disarm people and how to attack," explained Lance Cpl. Shawn Stacye, supply clerk, 3rd Bn., 24th Marines. "We want the Iraqi army to learn how to handle people without hurting them, and that's what we're trying to instill in them."
Although not all of the IA soldiers in the division attended the training, those who did are tasked with teaching the skills they learned to the entire division in due time.
"This is mandated by the 7th Div. commanding general for them to ultimately teach the rest of the division about civil disturbances, protests, crowd dispersion and negotiations," mentioned Sanford. He also noted that the success of the course depended upon the Iraqi leadership who headed the training with minimal Marine assistance.
As the IA continues to progress in military operations other than war, the time of their national elections draws near. This historic event is one reason why the training is top priority.
"With the elections approaching, this is a big mark in our proficiency level," said IA 2nd Lt. Ahmed Muhey El-Deen Al-Juburi, speaking through an interpreter. "I am ready to be an instructor for a platoon or even a company and make them proficient in everything I've learned here."
In the event that a serious riot breaks out for any reason, the 7th IA Div. will be trained, ready to respond with confidence, and able to restore peace in their city streets.