NATO Training Mission Iraq (NTMI) is considered to be the most successful mission NATO conducts that nobody has heard about. NTMI has approximately 182 military personnel from 14 different countries assisting and training the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Entities within NTM-I, known as the Output Divisions, are delivering this important task and have been recognized by both the United States Forces-Iraq (USF-I) and Government of Iraq (GoI) as well as the many foreign dignitaries who travel to see first-hand how well this support is being provided to the GoI to assist ISF capacity-building.
A critical but often overlooked aspect in any operational environment are the support, which enables the mission behind the scenes to run seamlessly…and this is no different in NTM-I. Those responsible for that support in NTM-I is the Joint Staff or J-Division, which consists of 8 specialist areas responsible for helping to create other conditions for the Output Divisions to assist in creating a self-sustaining ISF.
A good example of how the J Branch has supported the on going demands of the output divisions is a recent reconnaissance trip to the Kurdish region of Iraq. The aim of the recce was to examine options for the first Military Academy at Ar Rustamiyah, near Baghdad, to conduct field training and exercise in the North. The Officer Education, Training and Advising Branch (OETAB) took the lead to visit two possible locations, and after a lot of work by the J branches and Iraqi representatives, were ready to proceed.
Safety and security is always an initial planning consideration, especially when travelling in a rural area. The J2/3 Branch, a combined Intelligence and Operations function, constantly reviews and makes assessments to NATO's local Force Protection posture. For the trip to the Kurdish region, the J2/3 staff coordinated with USF-I and Peshmerga operational units in the area to provide a real-time analysis of the area to include any potential threats.
Another planning consideration integral to mission success is the ability to communicate. The J6 Branch, responsible for NATO Communications Information Systems for the NTM-I mission, prepared mobile contingency communications equipment and also accompanied the site survey as a communications' subject matter expert. The J6 Senior Non-Commissioned Officer not only provided the team's connectivity back to HQ daily, but performed a communications "laydown” assessment for each potential Course site. Throughout the visit, he operationally tested all primary and backup communications means. This will prove vital to future planning to those areas of Iraq.
The J4 Branch provided all the logistics needed for a complicated assortment of tasks. They sourced the travel arrangement via fixed wing aircraft to Irbil and back to Sather Airbase near Baghdad, in this respect the J4 staff broke new ground with regard to
transporting NTM-I members as well as Iraqi Nationals on a USF-I flight. The J4 staff coordinated all proper approvals and documentation required for the flight within short operational timelines. Foreign National waivers had to be attained prior to the flight as well as a means of getting the team members linked up with the ISF Generals at the military side of BIAP. Obtaining an interpreter that spoke both Kurdish and Arabic had to be arranged quickly to identify and place on the AMR.
Furthermore, the funding coordination by the J8 Comptroller Branch provided the final essential link to executing the site survey. The trip would not have been a success unless proper funding from J8 was in place. The equipment and contracted services as well as expenses for the trip were paid for by the J8 using NATO Common Funds.
This is just an example of coordination between the J Branches, getting new missions sorted out and executed in short time frames. The operational support for the NTM-I mission continues while the J Branches work through new requests for support, prioritizing the needs of the Output Divisions and implementing the processes that make it happen. The trip to the north was considered a resounding success and the groundwork has now been laid for implementing an essential element in the continued professionalization of the Iraqi Officer Corps.