AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
Until recently, the Iraqi Army has depended on U.S. forces to aid them in the areas of logistics, communications, intelligence, fire support, and infantry tactics. The primary conduit for learning these new skills has been Military Transition Teams.
As the Iraqi Army continues its progression toward operating as an organized force free of direct U.S. support, there are fewer areas where American advisors must lend a helping hand, and one of those is logistics.
Capt. Christopher Cowen, a MiTT adviser during a previous tour to Iraq, continues to help his Iraqi counterparts during his current deployment as a logistics officer with Combat Logistics Battalion 7, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
From Oct. 2007 to Oct. 2008, Cowen worked with the command staff of the 7th Iraqi Army Division, helping them improve their logistics element.
In March of this year, Cowen again volunteered to work with the 7th Iraqi Army Division, but this time at the lowest level, teaching Iraqi soldiers how to properly utilize their logistics resources. He said he uses his previous experiences from working with the MITT to assist him in better understanding the current needs of the division.
“I feel like I picked up where I left off,” said Cowen. “I feel my job was left unfinished. I’m now working with the lower level and helping them manage the maintenance shop. I’m trying to get them to use their proper channel of logistics.”
Cowen said his current goal is to get the Iraqi Army to use their own resources to obtain the materials they need for maintenance operations without the help of U.S. forces.
“The captain is helping us reach the results we want,” said Col. Karim Mohammed, the logistics officer for the 7th Iraqi Army Division. “Our goals are the same and he has a great concern for us.”
The soldiers’ main concern is getting the parts and materials they need to keep their equipment and vehicles operating because the materials are not always readily available to them. Cowen is assisting them in finding ways to obtain the things they need to accomplish their missions.
The determined mentor visits the Iraqi division’s maintenance shop twice a week to get updates on how they are operating and advises them in areas where they need extra assistance, such as submitting work and material request forms.
“I convinced them to start a log book to track requests,” Cowen said. “This is all new to them. They are used to submitting the request and possibly never hearing anything back. They now know how to track the request and be persistent in getting approval.”
With Cowen teaching the Iraqi soldiers to order materials the problem they now face is the unavailability of the needed parts.
“We are trying to keep our vehicles in good shape,” said Mohammed. “We don’t want to lose any equipment. It will affect our unit and our missions. Work will slow down and morale will decrease.”
“I just wish we could have parts on hand, at least in small portions,” Mohammed continued. “However, everything is improving for the best since the captain started helping out.”
With five months left on his deployment, Cowen plans to spend a large amount of time working with the division in hopes of helping them improve their operations.
“The Iraqi soldiers know that my heart is in this for a good reason,” Cowen said. “They see we are leaving and know they will have to depend on themselves soon. They will find a way to make it work, they always do.”
For more information about the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.