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Finding the Way

Cpl. David Valdes teaches an Iraqi soldier how to properly use a global positioning system receiver during a land navigation exercise.

Cpl. David Valdes, a rifleman with the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, teaches an Iraqi soldier how to properly use a global positioning system receiver during a land navigation exercise. Valdes was helping instruct a six-day course designed to enhance the capabilities of the 7th Iraqi Army Division’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Battalion. – Photo by Lance Cpl. Jason Hernandez
Marines give Iraqi soldiers new direction

CAMP MEJID, Iraq —

Marines from the California-based 1st Intelligence Battalion and 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion recently taught soldiers of the 7th Iraqi Army Division’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Battalion advanced land navigation and map reading techniques.

The six-day course included nearly five full days of exhaustive classroom instruction on how to properly read maps, how to design and plot locations and routes on a map, compass techniques, the negotiation of terrain obstacles and the use of hand-held global positioning systems.

“The object of this is to have the soldiers become fully mission capable,” said Master Sgt. Jerome Leary, operations chief for 1st Intelligence Battalion. “This means having them not only know where an operation is, but also how to get there.”

The classes eventually culminated in a practical application exam during which the Iraqi soldiers were required to put their newly learned skills to use. Marching outside the gates of Camp Mejid, headquarters of the 7th Iraqi Army Division, the soldiers plugged a series of grid coordinates into their GPS receivers and were required to find a number of physical points scattered around the nearby desert.

At each point there was an item such as a piece of candy or an orange that the Iraqi soldiers had to either sketch or bring back to the evaluators. As the IA intelligence soldiers trudged through the course, the Marines remained close by to offer assistance which few of the soldiers requested. Most of the soldiers reached their first coordinates relatively quickly, and after two hours, all the points had been located and recorded.

“The only significant challenge we really faced was translating the instructions for the GPS receivers into Arabic,” said Staff Sgt. Nathan Osowski, 1st Intelligence Battalion’s training chief. “Fortunately, we’ve got some great translators, and all we’ve got to do now is get a good number of the translated instructions printed out for distribution.”

As the Marine instructors watched the Iraqi soldiers boast about how quickly they found their checkpoints, they realized their teaching mission had been accomplished.

“Truth be told, once they started getting the hang of it, we were struggling to keep up with them around the training course,” said Osowski. “Once you get these guys motivated, there’s nothing that can stop them.”

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