Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 10th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Army Division, conducted a mortar live fire exercise at Destiny Range in Ninewa province, Iraq, June 16, 2011, in preparation for Operation Iron Lion.

Iron Lion is a series of exercises demonstrating cooperative abilities between Iraqi Security Forces as U.S. forces continue the advise, train and assist mission of Operation New Dawn.

Soldiers assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, supervised as Iraqi crews performed mortar live-fire exercises, which included emplacement of the mortar system, ammunition preparation and firing.

“It is important that these (Iraqi Army) soldiers take part in the exercise, so they can be comfortable with their weapon systems,” said Staff Sgt. Marcus Reeves, a mortar section sergeant assigned to HHT.

“(The more familiar) they become with the mortar systems, the more they will trust the systems, the training and their techniques,” said Reeves.

U.S. Soldiers train the Iraqi mortar crews during four-week courses at Ghuzlani Warrior Training Center as part of Tadreeb al Shamil, Arabic for All-Inclusive Training.

Currently on the second week of training, the sixth monthly rotation of Iraqi Army, or IA, soldiers applied the fundamentals of the Ghuzlani Warrior Training Center course to the live-fire exercise at nearby Destiny Range.

“For the Iraqis, this is the most casualty producing weapon system that they have at the company and battalion level,” said Capt. John Nimmons, commander, HHT.

The cavalry troopers provided assistance to Iraqi soldiers as the students prepared the rounds and adjusted their mortar systems to accurately hit targets more than 1,000 meters away using 60mm and 81mm mortar systems.

Many of the Iraqi soldiers have never fired a live mortar round, said Nimmons.

“(This exercise) helps them build confidence in the weapon system and reinforces what we’ve taught them,” said Nimmons. “Out here, we are able to make corrections before they conduct their battalion live fire exercise.”

Later this month, the mortar crews and the remainder of 1st Bn. are slated to join Iraqi Police and 3rd Federal Police Division members during a series of events supporting Operation Iron Lion.

During the partnered exercise, Iraqi Security Forces plan to demonstrate their ability to collectively secure Ninewa province from internal and external threats independent of outside assistance.

Nimmons said the mortar training at Destiny Range complements Iron Lion preparation as well as confidence for future missions.

“In preparing them to defend themselves against external threats and compliment the training at (GWTC), we want to be able to teach them how to utilize the mortar system,” said Nimmons. “They will leave from this training 110 percent better than when they started. The more rounds they fire, the more proficient they will become.”