The U.S. military has been sponsoring an eight-week training course on
the M-198 at the Iraq Army base in Kirkush. This marked the first shipment
of modern artillery to the post-Saddam army, which until now was limited to
mortar and infantry weapons.
"The addition of a weapons system and the needed training is huge for
these guys," Capt. Lance Magill, a training team chief, said. "It will give
them the capability to fire indirect fire with a large caliber weapon out to
about 18 kilometers."
The M-198, produced by Rock Island, has been deployed with the Iraq
Army's 5th Division, 20th Light Battery Brigade. Officials said the training
course has sought to squeeze in practical instruction in an effort to
prepare Iraqi soldiers for field exercises. They said the first three weeks
of the course was devoted to theory.
"We want this training to go a long way in helping to establish an Iraqi
Army NCO corps that can take this knowledge and be the keepers of it for
what will hopefully be many future field artillery regiments," U.S. Army
Maj. Jackie Kaina said.
Officials said a small group of Iraqi soldiers would be selected to
become instructors of the M-198, a medium-towed platform produced for the
U.S. Army in the 1970s. They said U.S. instructors have divided cadets into
separate crews, including section chief, gunner, assistant gunner and
ammunition team chief.
"The training is good," an Iraq Army artillery platoon leader,
identified only as Lt. Faisal, said. "The U.S. training team is
professional and they know their job well."
At the end of the course, scheduled for early June, cadets would stage a
live-fire artillery exercise. Officials said additional M-198s, which could
be dropped by parachute or transported by a heavy-lift helicopter, could
then be delivered to Baghdad.
"By making them the experts on something like a weapon system, you give
them ownership of that knowledge," Kaina said. "They will know that M-198
system better than anyone else, and that is how our NCOs operate."