Iraqi Officer cadets being introduced to Rifle Drill
Hidden in the dusty outskirts of Baghdad, far from the media, is the Iraqi Military Academy ar Rustamiyah (IMAR). It is the Iraqi equivalent of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, in the UK, and is where the Iraqi Army trains its future leaders. NATO Training Mission-Iraq (NTM-I) supports this training with a team of 14 officers and senior NCOs led by a United Kingdom lieutenant
colonel which provides advice and support at all levels within the Academy..
The NTM-I Mission is to provide NATO training advice and assistance to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in order to contribute to the development of Iraqi training structures and institutions, so that Iraq can continue to build effective and sustainable, multi-ethnic security forces which address the security needs of the Iraqi people.
IMAR was established by the British in 1924 and the Academy still retains some of the original influences of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. The Iraqis are proud of this link and continue to send some Officer Cadets to Sandhurst to this day. In 2003 IMAR was closed, abandoned and looted. It was partially renovated by US forces and in 2006 NTM-I took on the role of supporting the Academy and its training.
The Basic Officer Commissioning Course is two years long and officer cadets are awarded a ‘military degree' on successful completion of the course. The Iraqi Army would like to extend the course to three years and, in conjunction with the Ministry of Higher Education and the Baghdad Universities, make it a degree earning course. Difficulties with establishing the delivery of the academic package has resulted in a delay of this project until at least 2011.
At the point of delivery the instruction is good and appropriate knowledge is imparted to the officer cadets. However, management of training is less good and frequently undermines the overall impact of the training effort. The NTM-I team is provided by the UK and advises leaders and trainers at all levels and supports the delivery of an effective training system. This includes support to physical training, English language training, the officer cadet selection process, and logistic and personnel issues. Routine work includes monitoring the quality of instruction and providing feedback and coaching to the Iraqi staff. Assistance is given at all levels from the Commandant down to the officer and SNCO platoon instructors. A key task undertaken by the NTM-I team is the development and delivery of Train-the-Trainer courses to improve the overall quality of training delivered; these have included courses on methods of instruction and physical training.
In addition to support to training, the NTM-I team is also involved in a number of other projects to help the Academy. Following the war in 2003 the IMAR library was badly damaged and many of the books and fixtures were destroyed, although some were preserved underground. Through the work and initiative of NTM-I members the library has been re-established. Donations and support from UK, NTM-I and IMAR have allowed the library to be refurbished and equipped with shelves, furniture and books and while the project is not complete IMAR now has a functioning library they can be proud of. Donations of books from other libraries in NATO countries and from individuals in the NTM-I team are all helping to build this capability. The IMAR Museum suffered in a similar way during and after 2003 and the Imperial War Museum in UK has been helping to supply items to display in IMAR.
The IMAR mentoring team is a part of a larger NATO contingent in ar Rustamiyah. The Joint Staff and Command College is supported by a team of 6 officers led by an Italian lieutenant
Colonel. In addition, Poland provides a 15-man team led by a major that provides training and advice to the Base Defence Battalion that protects the whole site. This NTM-I contingent at ar Rustamiyah includes an administrative support team as well as contractors who provide life support and security for the separate NATO enclave. Overall, it is a cosmopolitan grouping of nations with a mix of Polish, American, Italian, Lithuanian, Bulgarian, British, Albanian, Indian and Nepalese civilian and military personnel.
Working as part of NTM-I at ar Rustamiyah, and with the Iraqis, requires patience and perseverance but it is both challenging and rewarding in equal measure. Success is measured by achieving forward momentum and enabling the Iraqis to manage and run their own training with greater independence.