ISOF sergeants major push Iraqi commandos to excel

works with ISOF. “(Competition) instills confidence in the operator’s peers, that he is a performer who can be depended upon in a pinch,” he continued.

The clank of eight sets of boots hurriedly slamming on the metal rappelling tower steps marked the beginning of the competition on July 10. After the commandos’ descended in full body armor, they began a half-mile run to the first shooting obstacle.

“The idea is to replicate the myriad of cover an operator is likely to find on the battlefield when he comes under fire,” said the Army sergeant. “If the operator is familiar with the relationship his body should be in with whichever immediate cover is available at that particular moment he comes under fire, his lethality and survivability increases exponentially.”

From different firing positions, the soldiers moved across a line of shooting barricades and fired around them. At the end of the firing line, they had to negotiate firing from three different positions around a humvee.

Each soldier was scored on the time it took to negotiate the obstacles and the accuracy of his firing. Accuracy was especially important on the second, third and fourth obstacles. They fired rounds from multiple poses: standing, kneeling, sitting and prone.

“Target discrimination and the application of precision fire is one of the most defining characteristics of units like this one,” said the veteran sergeant. “It’s all about the right tool for the right job. We are a scalpel, not a sledge hammer. If surgical application of force with minimum collateral damage and a low signature are required for the mission, then we are the right guys for the job.”

Another obstacle tested their determination and ability to work as a team. They had to scale a series of walls and could not move to the next wall until all four members of the team were over it. Once successfully over the walls, they climbed to the top of a tower and slid down a rope.

The series of grueling tests didn’t stop at the end of the rope. They had to carry a patient on a litter to a predetermined location where they then split up to simultaneously tackle three other tasks: change a tire on the tactical vehicle, take care of a simulated critically-wounded patient and re-assemble weapons from a box.

The team concept is important during the competition as well as on the battlefield. Performance in the face of danger is vital to the survival of ISOF soldiers and competition gives them an opportunity to evaluate themselves.

“(Through competition) non performers are identified which gives them the opportunity and motivation to improve,” said the Army sergeant. “When scores are posted in a public area for all to see, nobody wants to be the guy on the bottom.”

Their final task in the series of grueling events had them clearing a building designed to test their decision making skills in determining a combatant enemy from a non-combatant.

“We encounter all kinds of people combating an insurgency that exploits local citizens in order to conceal their nefarious activity,” he said. “Therefore we train to identify threats to the assault force in a split second ‘snap shot’ of what the operator observes. This serves to protect our operators, as well as non-hostile citizens in our sectors of fire.”

“To quote Rudyard Kipling, ‘The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack,’” the combat veteran sergeant said.

The brigade has fought in every major operation of the war since the siege of Fallujah in 2004 and their dedication has led to the capture of hundreds of criminals and terrorists in raids throughout the country. ISOF will continue to seek out terrorists and criminals in their safe havens and erode their strongholds as in Basra, Mosul, Fallujah, Amarah and Diyala.

“We do not want an award for our service,” said the ISOF command sergeant major, “we want our country to be stable.”