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Screaming Eagles teach Iraqi Army Soldiers to drive
By Spc. Rick Rzepka, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA)
May 20, 2008 - 12:13:01 PM
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Staff Sgt. Calvin Avant, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, trains Iraqi Army Soldiers on how to operate a humvee. (U.S. Army Photo By Spc. Rick Rzepka, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA))
TIKRIT, Iraq -  A long line of armored vehicles screams down the highway, weaving in and out of traffic like a drunken serpent.  Behind the wheel of most of these vehicles are young Iraqi Army Soldiers, most of whom have never properly learned to drive.

A danger to themselves, other drivers and civilians, these road warriors need professional help.

Soldiers from 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA) know what safe driving looks like and have teamed up with the IA to provide a driver’s training course.  The "Taskmaster" battalion has driven more than 90,000 miles on long stretches of road in the Salah ad Din province keeping the "Bastogne" team in the fight.

As the Iraqi Army matures and begins to assume a larger role in securing the people of the province, they are looking more and more to their coalition partners as mentors and teachers. 

The "Taskmaster" drivers noticed a need for driver’s training after seeing greenhorn Iraqi drivers struggle to control their trucks. 

"They were having accidents in the motor-pool," said Master Sgt. Derek Cook, 426th BSB.  Cook, along with other BSB drivers, has helped to train several dozen Iraqi Army Soldiers from various units across the Salah ad Din province, how to operate the battle-proven machine. 

"We’re here to give them the tools that they need to become safe, successful drivers," said Cook as he watched Iraqi Soldiers practicing their parking skills. 

"The biggest challenge is getting their attention," he said. "They pick things up better doing it hands-on."

One major obstacle the Soldiers face while learning is the language barrier.  Cook and his team, with the help of an interpreter, use hand and arm signals to teach the Iraqis how to drive. 

"Slow down!" screamed Cook pumping his hand, as an Iraqi Soldier weaved through the orange cones.  "They are very set in their ways," said Cook.

Accident prevention and humvee familiarization are critical to helping the Iraqi Army mature, said Cook. 

"We are getting good instruction from our American teachers," said Cpl. Beston, an IA Soldier with the 4th Iraqi Army Division.  "We haven’t had good teachers in the past," he said. 

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS:

 
Staff Sgt. Calvin Avant, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, trains Iraqi Army Soldiers on how to operate a humvee. (U.S. Army Photo By Spc. Rick Rzepka, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA))
Staff Sgt. Calvin Avant, 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, grades an Iraqi Army Soldier's performance on driving. (U.S. Army Photo By Spc. Rick Rzepka, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA))

(U.S. Army Photo By Spc. Rick Rzepka, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA))

An Iraqi Army Soldier takes a break from a drivers training course at FOB Dagger, Iraq. (U.S. Army Photo By Spc. Rick Rzepka, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA))


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