13 Aug 07
By Spc. Jennifer Fulk
Combined Press Information Center.
KIRKUSH, Iraq – Coalition advisors gathered at the Kirkush Military Training Base, Aug. 8, 2007, to see the progress being made in the region.
Denmark Army Gen. Werner P. Kahle visited Iraqi Army Gen. Sabah, head of the Regional Support Unit at the base, located approximately 70 miles northeast of Baghdad. “Think of it (the RSU) as a distribution center,” said Navy Capt. Joe Hedges, assistance chief of staff of engineering. “We are building distribution systems to get supplies to soldiers in the front,”
“If you have an army in the field, you have to be able to support them,” said Karl Kornchuk, the RSU’s senior advisor. This area is vital to the support of the Iraqi army. It provides logistics to several Coalition and Iraqi units. The area also has a noncommissioned officer academy, in addition to the RSU, which is currently led by Coalition forces.
There are 31 buildings being erected on the compound, which include living quarters, life support buildings, a gym and a classroom. All of the buildings should be complete in four to six weeks, said Paul Hunaker, the project manager. The project also includes 12 new 50,000-gallon fuel tanks, a new ammunition storage point, and sewer system upgrades. Once completed, these projects will increase the standard of living for the Iraqi army and will better enable them to get supplies to their fellow soldiers in the field.
The other side of this important project is training programs that are under way on the base. “The Regional Maintenance Company is small, but the trends are positive,” explained Kahle. “We’ve had a 75 percent success rate on this high visibility project.” he continued, referring to an eight-week class given to Iraqi soldiers who have had some type of maintenance background. The first class began on July 23 and the second a week later. From each class, the best student will be chosen to attend an advanced course and will eventually be the instructors themselves.
“The students are very eager and enthusiastic to learn,” said Francous VanGhant, chief of the Fiafi Group that was contracted to run the class. Vehicle maintenance is important so that the supplies that come through the base can actually be sent out to the soldiers who need them most. “We have to be able to get manpower, supplies and facilities to the same point at the same time,” Hedges said. “Without one of the three, the system doesn’t work.”
However, every effort comes with challenges and the Kirkush Military Training Base is no exception. “It’s like the saying, ‘Building an airplane while you’re flying,’ we’re working on a myriad of problems on the other side,” said Kornchuk. It is also much more expensive to build in the area because contractors are forced to provide their own electricity, water and living. Providing security to convoy in all of these materials is very costly.
Another issue, albeit a much smaller one, is that asphalt is nearly impossible to obtain because the routes are unsecured, so gravel is mainly used. As in all areas of Iraq, security is a very important issue, and employing the locals is key in the security effort. “People from the surrounding area also assist in the route security effort because they know that the supplies being brought in will eventually help them as well,” said Hedges. “A visible force is the key to securing the area.”
As the senior advisor for almost a year, Kornchuk is confident in the Iraqi army’s ability to grow and eventually sustain themselves. “I’ve seen their progress, and I can quantify it,” he said.
Sabah said that he hopes the base will become one of the main sources, and the best sources, of support for the Iraqi army. While there is certain to be some obstacles in the future, Kahle is confident in the Iraqi army. “They can only improve. I am confident that within one year it will be completely operational,” he said. “It all comes down to building close relationships and moving forward together to build a truly free democracy and a wonderful place to live.”
Photo – Denmark Army Gen. Werner P. Kahle studies a pair of boots that will be worn by an Iraqi Army soldier. Kahle visited Iraqi Army Gen. Sabah, head of the Regional Support Unit in Kirkush. Photo by Spc. Jennifer Fulk.