TAJI, Iraq -- Italian Army Lieutenant General Luciano Portolano, chief of staff at the southern Italy-based Allied Joint Force Command Naples, visited Iraqi Army training establishments at the Taji Military Complex, March 20 to 22, 2018.
During the visit, Portolano met with senior leaders from the training centres at Taji to better understand how NATO can contribute to the ongoing partnership activity that is being undertaken in Iraq.
Since the beginning of 2017, NATO forces have been conducting activities for and with Iraqi forces to help them not only develop capabilities in their fight against terrorism, but to also increase the skills and versatility of their forces. NATO Training and Capacity Building-Iraq activities feature military training teams that advise, assist and train Iraqi forces. The teams, under the NATO flag, are designed to complement ongoing Coalition, European Union and United Nations efforts, as well efforts from Allied countries.
"NATO is keen to keep Iraq as a strategic partner so we can work together to maintain stability in the region,” said Portolano. "There’s benefit for all sides, be it NATO, coalition or Iraqi forces, to train and work together for lasting stability.”
During the visit, Portolano met with the Joint Polish-Slovak Mobile Training Team delivering specialist tank training to 47 Iraqi students at the School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering. The team is delivering specialist instruction on a pair of Soviet-era vehicles, the T-72 tank and the BMP-1 Infantry Fighting Vehicle, at the school and abroad at Polish training establishments
With an emphasis on a train-the-trainer approach, the current activity differs from what’s occurred in the country in previous years.
U.K. Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Stephen Walton, coordinator of the Iraq Focus Group within JFC Naples, said that the Iraqis, supported by training delivered by the U.S.-led Coalition at the tactical level, have had significant battlefield successes over ISIS in recent years. Walton noted the development of Iraqi instructors across all disciplines has necessarily taken a back seat to training operators.
"NATO aims to address that training need to a point where Iraqis are able to generate, train and sustain their own,” Walton said during an interview last month.
Comprising two forward locations in Taji and Besmaya and supported by a core team in Baghdad, military and civilian personnel from Allied and partner nations mentor Iraqi instructors in civilian-military planning, security sector reform, maintenance of Soviet-era military equipment, explosive ordnance disposal and demining, counter-improvised explosive device, and military medicine.
"It was a great opportunity to witness the work the Joint Mobile Training Team is doing, in both the design and delivery, with this course,” said Portolano. "It’s proof of what can be achieved when we work together, and I look forward to seeing more of it.”
Story by JFC Naples Public Affairs Office