Iraqi marines gear up to guard southern oil terminals

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
by Christian Chaise

BASRA OIL TERMINAL IN THE GULF, Oct 13 (AFP) - After barely three weeks of
training at the hands of the US navy, Iraqi Lieutenant Saba Mohammad Amin is
confident that his men are ready to protect Iraq's oil terminals in the

The fledgling Iraqi marines number around 450. Some 200 of them, divided
into five groups, are currently nearing the end of their training on one of
the two offshore terminals, ABOT (Al-Basra Oil Terminal), some 10 kilometers
(six miles) from the Iraqi coast.

The group commanded by Amin wrapped up its training last week and is
supposed to be already operational. They are the first batch to become ready
since the program began in the summer as part of efforts by the US-led
coalition to rebuild the Iraqi armed forces.

The program is meant to enable Iraqi military personnel to eventually guard
ABOT and KAAOT, the Khor Al-Amaya Oil Terminal, two strategic installations
of vital importance to the Iraqi economy.

At the moment, the two facilities are protected by the Mobile Security
Detachment (MSD), a force set up by the US navy after the 2000 suicide raft
attack against the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden that killed 17
American sailors.

"Most of my detachment are in their mid-20s," Lieutenant-Commander Chris
Jacobsen, who heads the MSD force at both terminals, told AFP.

"They are here training the future Iraqi marine force ... It's a big
responsibility for a 22-year-old kid from Nebraska. They understand that and
they are proud of it," Jacobsen, 33, from Nevada, said.

Whereas five women are among the 30-strong MSD unit stationed on KAAOT,
women were nowhere to be seen on ABOT, where the training of the Iraqi
marine force is an all-male affair.

"Over half of them do a pretty good job," Jacobsen said of the Iraqis. But
he called standing guard "the main problem" for them.

"It's a discipline problem," he said.

Benjamin Johnson, a 25-year-old from Minnesota, agreed.

"Training with them is challenging. The idea of standing guard 24 hours a
day in the same position is foreign to them," said Johnson, manning an
outpost on the roof of the building of Iraq's South Oil Company along with a
fellow American and two Iraqi Marines.

"They have a different attitude about the military."

In the building below, two US navy personnel were watching a game of the
National Football League (NFL), giving two Iraqis marines a glimpse into
American life.

"In the US, there is a sense of pride for being in the military," Lieutenant
Lee Payne, a 26-year-old from Virginia, explained.

"A lot of these guys are here, but it's like another job," he said of the
Iraqi marines, stressing that some of them "don't have a sense of duty."

"It's going to take at least a few months before they can take over
security," he continued.

"They have the knowledge, they have the ability to do well. But when we're
not here to tell them what to do, will they be able to remember?"

But Amin, a 29-year-old former lieutenant in the Iraqi army under the ousted
regime of Saddam Hussein, had no such doubts.

"I think we are ready to guard these terminals on our own," he told AFP
through a translator.

Amin shrugged off a question about what would happen if the Americans left
now. "No problem," he said.

"We thought we were adequately trained, but since we came here, we
discovered a new style of training," Amin said.

Like all the men under his command and nearly all other members of the Iraqi
navy and marines, Amin is a Shiite Muslim.

Sunnis make up no more than 10 percent of the force, Jacobsen said.