Story by Spc. Jeffrey Ledesma

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Special Operations Forces soldiers are currently learning the ins and outs of advanced weaponry during an in-depth weapons course in the Iraqi capital.

During the weapons course, the soldiers will become experts at the construction, function and repair of seven types of weaponry.

The students learn the M4 assault rifle, M203 grenade launcher, M249 squad automatic weapon, MK-48 machine gun, M240B machine gun, .50-caliber machine gun, MK19 belt-fed automatic grenade launcher and the M9 pistol.

The Iraqi course instructor stated he was focused on making sure the soldiers understand every aspect of each weapon and not on the number of students he filters through the course.

“It is better to have five people who know everything about the weapons than to have twenty people who only know a little bit,” he explained.

Although the students are stationed all across the country from the northern city of Mosul to the southern city of Basrah, the course is managed by the ISOF Soldiers with the 3rd Support Battalion based in Baghdad.

According to the course instructor, teaching the students everything they need to know about weapons is the main goal so when the students graduate, they will be able to go to their respective units and efficiently run their own small arms shops.

During this three-month course, the instructor explains the complex details of each weapon. The students’ ability to learn the necessary information drives the amount of time allocated for each weapon.

“The [M9 pistol] is only going to take a couple of days while the [MK19] is going to take a couple weeks,” said a coalition adviser to the students.

With their expanding knowledge, the instructor said his students will be able to repair most weapon deficiencies at their locations.

He further explained that this new ability will improve the overall operational readiness of the ISOF elements strategically placed throughout the country by ensuring fewer soldiers on the ground will have to wait for their weapon to be sent off and repaired here.

A Corporal in the course said he feels like he has learned much and hopes to pass the valuable knowledge on to others in his unit.

“Because the class is known to others as very challenging, people will look at us differently once we graduate,” said the soldier from the southern town of Nasariyah.

The course instructor said he has gained this knowledge from the Americans and he is overwhelmed with pride to be able to pass that knowledge to some of his own.

“It’s definitely something I’m very proud of,” he said.

A Staff Sergeant who advises the unit said he is proud of the unmatched commitment the instructors and students display each and every day.

“They run their own courses (and) teach their own students and that is the true test of progress,” said the soldier with 19 years of weapons experience. “There will be nine more weapon repairers in country being able to provide that much-needed capability.”

The instructor declared when his students go back to their units they will be the soldiers others can call on for help.

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