WASHINGTON- A new warfighter training program for Iraqi soldiers represents an important milestone in the ongoing effort to increase the Iraqi Army’s capability and capacity, a senior U.S. officer who leads the training advisory team told Baghdad reporters today.

Army Brig. Gen. Steven Salazar, commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq’s Coalition Army Advisory Training Team, credited the close partnership with the Iraqi Defense Ministry’s training directorate with ensuring steady progress in training the Iraqi force.

This training, provided through the Tactical Training Director and Center for Military Principles, Values and Leadership, is helping to build a well-trained, professionalized Iraqi army, he said.

The program includes basic combat training, military operational specialty training and noncommissioned officer training, Salazar noted. In addition, specialty training offered at the Iraqi Army Service Support Institute ensures the Iraqi force has higher-level technical skills in maintenance, supply and administration to support warfighters, Salazar said.

“We’ve made considerable financial investment to provide training facilities for the Iraqi army,” he said. “In addition to the six regional training centers, we have built division training centers for each Iraqi army division.” These facilities, he said, include weapons ranges, “shoot houses” for urban operations, combat assault courses and outdoor training facilities.

The new warfighter training program makes maximum use of these resources as it addresses counter-improvised-explosive-device training, staff training and ethics training, he said. The three-week program takes soldiers from individual skills training through squad, then platoon, then company and, ultimately, battalion-level collective training.

“This is an important milestone,” Salazar said. “It indicates that the … situation is improving and allows a greater focus on training.” Meanwhile, he said, it demonstrates “the increasing capacity as well as the capability of the Iraqi army, as well as its eagerness to continue its professional development.”

Salazar said he’s impressed by the commitment demonstrated by Lt. Gen. Hussain, the Iraqi army’s deputy chief of staff for training, and his team to train and professionalize their force to succeed in the counterinsurgency fight while preparing for future independent operations.

Hussain said through an interpreter that he and his staff are focused on training their force to fight terrorists, improve their combat capabilities and develop the services needed to support them.

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