Transition team continues to see progress in Iraqi Army troops
By Sgt. Robert Yde
2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs
BAGHDAD – Although he knew he would be a member of a military transition team upon arriving in Iraq last fall, before his unit deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, 1st Lt. Xeon Simpson did not know what that really meant.
“There were rumors leading right up to deployment, and then about a month before deployment, we were like, ‘Yeah, that’s what we’re going to do,’” explained the Bronx, N.Y. native. “At that point, though, I didn’t really understand what a MiTT was, or what I would be doing.”
Since arriving to Baghdad in last November, though, Simpson, who is assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, said he has grown to really enjoy his role as a trainer and watching the soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division continue to show progress as they operate more and more on their own.
“They are head and shoulders above the rest of the other battalions in the brigade,” he said. “Every time there’s an inspection, be it surprised, be it announced, they always come out on top.”
Simpson credits this to the leadership of the 1-5-6th IA and said that the quality of its leadership has allowed the battalion to function in many cases with minimal Coalition support or guidance.
“They’ve been out many times without us on missions,” Simpson said. “They’ve planned and executed missions, and they’ve done a lot of stuff by themselves, and they’ve done it real well.”
Iraqi troops again demonstrated their autonomy June 7 during a cordon-and-knock mission in the Monsour area.
“It was 100 percent planned and executed by the IA, based on their intelligence,” Simpson explained.
Simpson said that the Iraqi Army had received reports that there was a chemical lab in this area where home made explosives were being made and quickly put together the mission to try to locate the suspected lab.
Simpson and Staff Sgt. Brent Mathis were the only two Coalition Soldiers on the ground with the Iraqi troops as they went from house to house in the neighborhood.
“We facilitate, and that’s it,” Mathis, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., explained. “If needed, we’ll go in and help, but if not, we let them do most of the stuff on their own because we’re here so they can learn to do it on their own.”
During the search, Mathis and Simpson remained in the background, only getting involved on a couple of occasions when the Iraqi troops had questions or were looking for advice.
“They work real hard and go out and do what they’ve got to do,” Mathis said of the IA soldiers. “Once they are given an [operations order], they go out, and they conduct the mission pretty well. They do a pretty good job.”
Although, they were unable to locate the suspected chemical lab on this day, the Iraqi troos told Simpson that they planned to continue searching the area over the course of the next several days.
Simpson said that with many IA units, this type of persistent attitude is not always obvious, and that it is one of the things that set the 1-5-6th apart from their peers.
“Failure’s not an option when it comes to certain missions that we’re given, and the attitude on the IA side is sometimes, ‘If it happens, it happens,’ Simpson said. “But the American attitude is more like, ‘You’ve got to make it happen.’ We’ve instilled a lot of that in them, and they make it happen one way or another. It may not be done the way I want it to be done, but it’s done and it works.”
His team has a lot of expectations from the IA soldiers they train, Simpson said, and nearly all of these expectations have been continually embraced and met.
“It’s just like when you’re growing up,” he explained. “If no one expects anything from you and you do a little bit then that’s great, but if everyone around you expects a lot and you do a lot then you become greater and greater.”
Simpson said that his team is the third MiTT to work with the 1-5-6th, and based on how the battalion is now performing, he suspects that it will be their last.
“They’ve made a huge amount of progress, and while we still offer a lot to them, they could stand on their own if need be,” he said. “I think with the direction that we’re taking them, though, we’re setting a new standard for the IA, and the 1-5-6th is going to set a new standard for all the other battalions in the brigade because of what they expect from themselves.
“They’re starting to have that confidence by themselves now, and we’re pulling back a little bit, and they’re still going out, and they do what they have to do,” he added. “When we first got here, one of the IA told me that, when the Americans are with them, they feel brave and feel like nobody can mess with them. Now, they don’t depend on us as much for that added confidence, and they are excelling.”
Warner Robbins, Ga., native Staff Sgt. Brent Mathis, a member of the military transition team supporting the 1st Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, watches as Iraqi troops conduct a search after receiving a tip about the whereabouts of a chemical lab, where homemade explosives were being created was in an area of a neighborhood in Monsour June 7. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)
Iraqi Army troops with the 1st Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division talk to a Monsour resident while on a cordon and knock mission June 7. The Iraqi troops were searching for homemade explosives after receiving a tip that there was a chemical lab in the area. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)
1st Lt. Xeon Simpson (center) watches as an Iraqi Army troop examines a Monsour resident’s car registration June 7. Simpson, a Bronx, N.Y., native, is a member of the military transition team supporting the 1st Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)