THE first batch of Iraq's newly trained troops have taken Australian skills into battle on the streets of Baghdad this week.
Up to 900 Iraqi soldiers have been posted to Sadr City, the stronghold of Islamic leader Moqtada al-Sadr and a hotbed of insurgent violence. All the soldiers are recruits from the Australian-run Camp Ur training facility close to the Australian base at Tallil in Iraq's southeast.
A second group of fresh-faced recruits this week joined the course run by the Australian Army Training Team. Most recruits come from poor families and about 30 per cent are members of the former Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein.
Head of the team, Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Power, said the aim was to push out well-trained troops under the "30K plan", which aims to boost the Iraqi army by 30,000 men.
Sgt John Camiller, of the 1st Battalion in Townsville, is at the pointy end of the training effort. Sgt Camiller said the Iraqi instructors were professional and mostly ex-regime, but they had to be constantly encouraged.
Iraqi Major Ahmed Nema Hussain has become mates with Sgt Camiller and the team. He pleaded with Australia not to leave Iraq. "I hope the Iraqi army becomes like the Australian army," he said.
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