Spc. Garfield Pellhum, native to St. Roberts, Miss., prepares his M240-B machine gun before going on a mission with the 2nd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Military Transition Team, assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division in the Diyala province of Iraq, Feb. 17. The 2-5 MiTT helps their Iraqi Army counterparts to transition to a self-sustaining fighting force. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Ben Fox, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 19, 2007
By Pfc. Ben Fox
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division
BAQUBAH, Iraq (Feb. 18, 2007) – Coalition forces in Diyala province in Iraq bring important strategic military force to the area, but their efforts can only go so far.
It is the Iraqi military that needs to take the lead, which is what military transition teams, or MiTTs, bring to the fight.
A MiTT is comprised of coalition force Soldiers from various job fields who work with Iraqi Army Soldiers at division, brigade and battalion levels.
“The number one job for (our) MiTT is to help the Iraqi Army brigade that we work with to transition to the point that they can step up to complete operations on their own,” said Lt. Col. Jay George, the commander for the 2nd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army MiTT.
The 2-5 MiTT works with their Iraqi counterparts to help them transition to become a self-sufficient fighting force, said the Spartanburg, S.C. native. The team falls under the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Divison, which in charge of operations in Diyala.
“All of the guys we deal with down there seem very eager to learn,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Lindstrom, a Corry, Penn. native and 2-5 MiTT Soldier.
Lindstrom said he always tries to let the Iraqis come up with their own plans on how to operate by observing from outside and giving them advice when necessary.
If the MiTT tells them how everything needs to be done, they aren’t learning anything, he said.
“It’s their military; they need to do things their way,” said Lindstrom.
Spc. Garfield Pellhum, native to St. Roberts, Miss., said before he goes out on missions with the Iraqis, he does certain routines to show them a system of checks before leaving.
Pellhum is a gunner with the 2-5 MiTT who mainly focuses on security for the patrols he goes out on, and ensures the well being of other gunners and drivers.
“I think that the MiTT teams are actually accomplishing what needs to be accomplished for Iraq to have a working Army,” said Lindstrom.
“The Iraqi Army needs to be Iraq’s force for the future,” said George. The Iraqi Army needs to be the military arm of the government that can respond the way the government needs it to, he said.
Each Soldier on the MiTT partners with staff sections and members in the Iraqi Army brigade, said George. They also help them tactically by bringing assets such as air strikes and indirect fire to the fight, he said.
The IA watches how coalition forces operate, said Pellhum.
“This time I know we are making a difference,” said Lindstrom, who previously deployed in 2004. “I can see that first hand.”
“From the last deployment to this deployment… the IA has come leaps and bounds from the last time I was here,” said Lindstrom.
“The sooner that their army stands up and completely stands by itself… the United States Army can finish the mission,” he said.
“When they do that on their own, then we have succeeded, and the United States Army can start stepping back out of the picture,” said George.
Many different elements of 3rd BCT had to give up some of their best Soldiers, but George said it was worth it.
“If it hurts, if it’s painful to give the person up, then it is probably the right thing to do,” he said.
George said he has seen the IA making progress.
“I do see that the Iraqi Army is moving forward,” he said.
It will take time for the Iraqi Army to be a completely self-sufficient force, he admitted, adding that it took Americans a long time to become the stable government they are today.
“They are on the right track,” said George. “It is just going to take time.”Preparing his gear for a mission, Capt. John Leitner, a native of Houston, makes sure he has all of his equipment before leaving Forward Operating Base Gabe with his unit, the 2nd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Military Transition Team, assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division in the Diyala province of Iraq, Feb. 17. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Ben Fox, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)