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NEWS | Oct. 5, 2011

California Guard members train Iraqis on fuel trucks

By Spc. Matthew Wright Army National Guard 40th Combat Aviation Brigade

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - California Army National Guard Soldiers here recently conducted a week-long class to train fellow Iraqi Army personnel how to operate heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks, or HEMTT, in preparation for the upcoming assumption of operations by Iraqi Security Forces.

Guard members from Alpha Company, 640th Aviation Support Battalion conducted training on the M978M HEMTT fuel truck, a 10-ton, eight-wheeled, fuel servicing vehicle. It is a bulk liquid transporter that holds 2,500 gallons of fuel and is equipped with a fuel resupply module for pumping fuel.

Soldiers from the 640th trained Iraqi personnel to not only operate and maintain the fuel vehicles, but also to conduct training for other Iraqis on operating and maintaining the HEMTTs.

Army Staff Sgt. Rory Huerta is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the training program. He explained the purpose of the training and summarized what the 640th Soldiers are teaching the Iraqis in this course.

"They will be receiving four to six of these [HEMTTs], brand new," he said. "We need to make sure that they understand how to not just drive them, but conduct preventive maintenance and services on the vehicles as well as fuel their vehicles and aircraft."

The training was an 80-hour block that was condensed to 40 hours. The training started with the 640th familiarizing the Iraqis on HEMTT basic preventative maintenance. As the training continued through the week, the Iraqis received training on driving the vehicles and operating the fueling system, including the fueling of other vehicles and aircraft.

As the training progressed further, 640th Soldiers taught Iraqi personnel instructional techniques for training other Iraqi troops on the HEMTTs.

Capt. Ali, the senior Iraqi officer in the class, was impressed with the training and its usefulness for Iraqi personnel.

"The class is providing very good information for us," Ali said. "This experience will be good for the warrant officers and the fueling specialists that I have worked with for 25 years."

The 640th's mission for the last seven months during Operation New Dawn has been to provide aviation operations support for the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade at a number of bases throughout Iraq.

The support they provided included repairing helicopters, providing security and fuel for the brigade as well as supporting tactical communications at Camp Taji and two locations in northern Iraq. The 640th is approaching the end of its deployment and will be heading back to California once it is released from its mission.

The Iraqi personnel trained by A Co. will assume responsibility for services that American Soldiers provided while in theater. They will take over the support of operations at the Taji airfield as well as the full base operations.

Army Lt. Col. Lou Carmona, battalion commander of the 640th ASB, delivered a speech during the graduation ceremony at the conclusion of the training. He emphasized his pride in the outstanding manner in which A Co. accomplished its mission, as well as the importance of the training for the Iraqi Security Forces.

"At the end of the day, my Soldiers were able to connect with the Iraqis," Carmona said. "This equipment is an important capability for the Iraqi Army - it represents the ability to project aviation into parts of the country where little or no infrastructure exists."



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