Page 92 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
P. 92

Flying over the cultivated fields and impressive new buildings between Taji and Baghdad, I was struck by the amount of improvement and growth in Iraq since my last visit just over ten years ago. The memories of that same visit were further rekindled when we drove into the Amber Zone of the vast military complex in Taji, where the Qwat Khasah (translates to Special Forces) are housed for their training. Time has certainly moved on and there is clear evidence of improvements in the way the people now live and how much normality has been restored in Baghdad. It is not completely peaceful, but the Iraqi Security Forces continue to make commendable progress in terms of providing it for their people.
The Qwat Khasah is a true proponent of greater security in Iraq. They are a committed force yet with the humility to learn and improve in all they do. Their role is primarily focused on countering either a resurgence of, or insurgency caused by, Da’esh in Iraq. While the Iraqi Army is vast and spread across the country, the majority remains focussed on the main population centres; the Qwat Khasah will provide a much-needed force capable of projecting into depth and acting as a self-sus- taining intelligence, surveillance and reconnais- sance unit as well as being able to prosecute targets accordingly. It is in these skillsets that we are training them for future success.
While the Specialised Infantry Group now has excellent relations with our Qwat Khasah partners, it was certainly not easy for us to break in with them. When we arrived on task, we had to pick up a broken project. The partner force had not bonded with their previous coalition trainers. We have therefore had to slowly rebuild and repair relationships. The project is now back on track and thriving. All this was achieved through the professionalism, restlessness, self-reliance and humility of our team.
This task is really testing with the Specialised Infantry concept and we are gaining much as a result. The high threat environment ensures we stay true to operational
planning and preparation – pre and post patrol action, bonnet top briefs, orders and rehearsals are all daily norms. We have really been able to empower our junior commanders. It is normal for a LCpl to lead a specialist skills package on their own, with Cpls and Sjts involved heavily in training design and force protection planning.
Our immersion in the region is also developing further our language and cultural understanding. This was very much supported by the deployment of two Arabic linguists. One of them was a reservist from 7 RIFLES, proving the utility of the Reserves in support of Spec Inf. Even without our home-grown interpreters to hand, it is common- place for all of our JNCOs to run ranges using only Arabic words of command.
This task has drawn on the relationship between two units in the Specialised Infantry Group, with one team from the 4th Battalion and one from 1 SCOTS, with a joint headquarters. The bonds of friendship we have seen established here between our operators will last a long time and aid in our shared understanding across task lines in the future. On this operation, our Specialised Infantry identity is to the fore, and our unit identities are in the background. We know how well this branding is going down with the Qwat Khasah but it is also important in camp and in front of the wider UK and coalition partners in Iraq. For me personally, it has been a true pleasure to command and serve with soldiers from both battalions.
This truly has been a fantastically challenging and rewarding tour so far. The successes of the Qwat Khasah in training and their ability to be ready for operations is down to the efforts of both the operators within the SOAT and also the committed and professional approach of the Qwat Khasah themselves. The offshoots of a potentially very good long-term relationship have sprung – they will be well nurtured by the persistence and continuity offered by one unit, 4 RIFLES, having continual ownership of this task.
Maj Graham Henderson SCOTS
Qwat Khasah Special Operations Advisory Team (QK SOAT)
 The Qwat Khasah Special Operations Advisory Team

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