MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz --
Two Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma recently returned from a seven-month deployment to Iraq, where they served on a transition team to help train members of the Iraqi Border Patrol.
Sgt. Timothy Conner Jr., Combat Logistics Company 16 wrecker operator and Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Viscovi, CLC-16 maintenance chief, were se¬lected to deploy with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force border transition team because of their logistic capabilities and job skills.
The team’s goal was to help mentor, advise and train the Iraqi Border Patrol.
In order to efficiently train the Iraqi Border Patrol, the transi¬tion team had to go through training themselves.
They spent five months train¬ing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., where they learned about foot patrols, live fires and convoys. They also trained with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Calexico, Calif., to sharpen their skills.
The feedback from returning teams has been used to make changes and additions to the training, such as additional culture and language, foreign weapons and the use of sce¬nario-based training, according to Major Gen. George J. Flynn, commanding general for Train¬ing and Education Command, United States Marine Corps.
“We received classes, mostly in Arabic language and culture, and we trained with the equip¬ment we would be using in Iraq,” Viscovi commented.
A transition team is made up of a group of 10 to 30 Marines with skills in ground maneuver, fire support, logistics, intel¬ligence and communications who mentor Iraqi security forces in military, border security and national police operations, ac¬cording to Flynn.
Conner, who worked on the border of Jordan and Iraq, said they did everything they could to help the Iraqi people. “We taught them to clean, care for and fire their weapons. We also trained them on foot patrols and how to properly execute a convoy tactics.”
“We worked on the Syrian border to train the Iraqi Border Patrol to stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons and personnel into Iraq,” said Viscovi.
Viscovi noted several changes with the way the Iraqi Border Patrol was run. “When we got there, they didn’t have a staff or set rank structure and now they do.”
One of the biggest threats presented while in Iraq was the many hiding places and minimal visibility in the urban terrain while they were in the cities and towns, Viscovi said.
Not only did the border transi¬tion team work to train the Iraqis to protect their own borders, but they also brought with them a little bit of the American way of life.
“We taught a bunch of the Iraqis how to play the game of ‘good old fashioned’ football,” said Conner. “It was pretty fan¬tastic to be able to bring an American tradition into Iraq.”
While the border transition teams are making a difference in more than one way, their main goal is to train the Iraqi Border Patrol, he said.
“We worked to train the Iraqis to be proficient enough to pro¬tect their own borders,” said Conner. “The next team that goes out there will further their proficiency.”
The Marine Corps provides five different transition teams in Iraq and Afghanistan: military transition team, border transi¬tion team, police transition team, and the national police transition team. All of these transition teams are helping Iraqi forces to become self sustaining.