Soldiers, from the 76th Iraqi Infantry Brigade, received M16A2 rifles and infantry equipment sets, May 24-26, as part of the fielding of combat brigade equipment sets supplied to Iraqi Security Forces from the United States to support the fight against Daesh.
Under the direction of the 3rd Sustainment Brigade Forward Support Element on Fort Stewart, Georgia, and the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Iraqi soldiers received equipment needed in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The 76th Infantry Brigade fielded more than 1,000 M16A2 rifles, which were distributed to individual soldiers, along with assault packs, ammunition magazines, protective masks and load-carrying cargo pouches. In addition, each company was issued 60 mm-120 mm mortar sets, MK19 automatic grenade launchers, M240B machine guns, M2 .50-caliber machine guns, M249 light machine guns, M14 sniper rifles and M500 12-gauge shotguns.
The British government also donated approximately 60 VALLON hand-held mine detectors to assist in the campaign.
The distribution of these weapons was supervised by Capt. Jason Akers, officer-in-charge of the 3rd Sustainment Brigade Forward Support Element.
“It took three days to hand over the equipment to the brigade,” Akers said. “They were very excited to have the issue go directly to the brigade and happy to get new equipment.”
Brig. Gen. Ali Khalid Abdullah, 76th Infantry Brigade commander, said these new weapons are important to build his soldiers’ morale.
“The Jundis (soldiers) have more confidence in these weapons,” Abdullah said. “The Australian and United States forces are happy to train us on the new weapons and prepare my soldiers for the fight.”
Maj. Amare Alazzowi, a battalion commander with the 76th Infantry Brigade, shared the view that new weapons will help build confidence within his ranks.
“I think this is a good weapon (M16A2) for my soldiers. They will be confident to fight,” Alazzowi said. “Training will help them be comfortable with their weapon and once you are comfortable, your weapon becomes your friend.”
Assisting with the distribution of the infantry combat sets were members of the Task Group Taji training team made up of Australian forces, which will train the 76th Infantry Brigade on the new systems.
Lt. Col. Ash Collingburn, task group commander, is aware that these weapons are vital for the next phases of training.
“The 76th IA [Infantry} Brigade will go through a complete training package on all the new weapons including the M16A2 rifle,” Collingburn said. “We are developing their ability to use ‘combined arms’ and instilling in them the confidence to defeat Daesh.”
The excitement for the new weapons was not only shared by the 76th Infantry Brigade commanders, but could be seen and heard from the individual soldiers as they waited in line to receive their new issue.
Picking up a small broom and sweeping the dirt around him, one Iraqi soldier said, “We will sweep Daesh out of Iraq like trash with the weapons we get today.”
“With teamwork we will punish Daesh,” another soldier interrupted. “We will go and fight Daesh and drive them from Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul.”
The overall mission to supply the 76th Infantry Brigade with combat sets went well, said Col. Michael Midkiff, 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and officer-in-charge of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command Logistics Advise and Assist Team.
“The mission was well planned and everything went smooth,” Midkiff said. “Adjustments to the distribution process were made as needed to expedite the process of getting the equipment successfully into soldier’s hands.”
The 76th Infantry Brigade was the first Iraqi Security Forces brigade to be fielded equipment straight to the company level from coalition partners and plans are in process to supply other brigades with similar combat sets to support them in their fight against ISIL.