As the dust settled on the landing zone, two MI-17 helicopters lifted off from the 36th Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division headquarters at Camp Taji, their departure signifying the completion of the unit’s first joint medical training exercise between the Iraqi Army and Air Force.
Credit: 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division
Location : CAMP TAJI, IQ
Although the two Iraqi services have conducted a combined training exercise in the form of an air assault mission with support from 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, and the 36th Bde. 9th IA Div. Military Transition Team, this medical training was the first time the Iraqis planned, resourced and conducted the entire mission without the support of U.S. forces.
The training event began when red smoke grenades, symbolizing improvised explosive devices, detonated near an army convoy. The soldiers immediately sprang into action, pulling their “wounded” comrades from the vehicle and setting up security around the site.
While U.S. and Iraqi Army observers snapped pictures and took notes, first aid-trained Iraqi soldiers treated the casualties as their commander called over the radio for an air evacuation.
Soon, helicopters buzzed overhead and the wounded were loaded into the back of an ambulance and transported to the landing zone.
Capt. Patrick Hanson, an intelligence officer with the team, explained that the final exercise came after months of training.
“The first aid training for the Iraqi soldiers began in October, with (Staff Sgt.) Osorio training eight to 10 soldiers every other week,” said Hanson, adding that as the Iraqi soldiers’ skills improved, army leaders began teaching the class and enforcing the standards themselves.
When the Iraqis began mastering these medical skills, their lead medic, 1st Lt. Naseem, developed the plan for the exercise.
In three weeks, he created a completely Iraqi-led medical course in coordination with the Iraqi air force to provide his medics practice loading casualties into helicopters, and secured all the equipment necessary for the actual event.