Program Review in Iraq marks first for command.
Fifty people, military and civilian, flew from the United States to attend the PMR, including thirteen from USASAC and its supporting life cycle management commands. Once they arrived, they joined 75 others from the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) and the Iraq Security Assistance Mission.
The attendees traveled by commercial carrier into Baghdad International Airport then took CH-47 Chinook helicopters to downtown Baghdad in the heart of the International Zone before being bused to their accommodations at Forward Operating Base Union III. The event site at the Black Hawk Conference Center is part of the former 'Believer's Palace' complex. During the conference, they met with other members of the U.S. security community and Iraqi military leadership. While their backgrounds were different, the goals expressed by conference speakers were similar.
As senior leaders from the U.S. and Iraq spoke, each emphasized the need to continue to move the Iraq FMS processes toward full Iraqi ownership in advance of the December 31st, 2011 withdrawal of U.S. forces, Colonel Timothy 'Mac' McKernan, USASAC liaison to MNSTC-I, said. Much of the discussions over the first two days centered around training the Iraqi representatives and ensuring they understand the FMS process so they are more effective in dealing with the U.S. government.
The U.S. contingency included civilians, Army, Air Force, and Navy representatives. The conference covered issues such as FMS program overviews, training and force development plans, above standard level of service issues, and freight forwarder usage and benefits. Breakout sessions enabled Iraqis to discuss their issues directly with program case managers. It was also a chance for both the Iraqis and the attendees to sit together and simply talk. While much of the conversation focused on FMS and training programs, there was also a chance to get to know each other as people. The shift in viewpoint was obvious over the five days.
The first day of the conference, Iraqis and Americans largely ate and socialized amongst themselves. By the end of the PMR, Americans and Iraqis shared lunch tables with their newfound friends and spoke of the things all free people speak, McKernan said. Love of families, a hope for a better future for the next generation, and a genuine hope for peace in Iraq and throughout the world was first and foremost on everyone's minds.
The bonding between people at the event coupled with the work accomplished fostered a renewed sense of purpose for USASAC employees. Some had never been to Iraq before, and some had. All left with a deeper sense of the impact of their jobs on the Iraqi future.
The conference was a wonderful opportunity to forge closer bonds with our Iraqi counterparts, Betty Taylor, U.S. Air Force (USAF) Security Assistance Program Manager-Iraq, said. It also gave me a greater appreciation of the conditions the Iraqis and MNSTC-I personnel deal with each day. The graciousness and resilience of the Iraqi people was truly heartwarming. I have a stronger commitment to my program knowing the people I am assisting. I am proud to have a role in helping rebuild this historical land.
Due to the success of the event, others are being planned; and the next is tentatively scheduled for spring 2010.
Colonel Timothy "Mac" McKernan, USASAC Liaison to MNSTC-I
With five previous deployments under his belt, Colonel Tim McKernan did not expect any surprises when he received orders to complete his current tour in Baghdad, Iraq. However, when McKernan discovered that he would be serving as a liaison to the Iraq Security Assistance Mission (ISAM), he realized this deployment would prove far different than his past experiences, in which his responsibilities had centered on supporting and facilitating combat and counter-insurgency operations.
This deployment has me in a role whereby success is measured in the Iraqi Security Forces' ability to gain and maintain security for the Iraqi people, McKernan explained.
In his current role, McKernan is responsible for training and equipping the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). McKernan is also working to educate the Iraqi government on the processes and policies necessary to facilitate future security cooperation activities with the United States, which will ensure a lasting relationship between the United States and Iraq.
Our mission here in Iraq is two-fold, McKernan said. First, we are here to support the government of Iraq, as they continue building the ISF, to achieve essential capacities prior to our planned withdrawal at the end of 2011. Next, and probably most importantly, we are here to support building a long-term, stable, and symbiotic partnership with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people.
McKernan knows that his work with the ISF is essential to improving the quality of life in Iraq.
The ISF's ability to protect their country from internal and external threats is critical to continued improvement in the Iraqi peoples' way of life, McKernan said.
During his time in Iraq, McKernan has seen the ISF make great strides in their ability to independently secure their country.
What I find most rewarding about this deployment is seeing the Iraqi government and Iraqi Security Forces move forward to take charge of their country, which will allow their continued prosperity, McKernan said. The difference from June 2009, when I arrived, to now is striking, as the overall level of violence is much lower. Although the ISF continues to have challenges from a determined enemy, they also continue to grow, adapt, and gain the necessary professionalism and ministerial capacity to carry on effectively after our departure.
As a result of the achievements the ISF has made over the past several months, the Iraqi people have developed faith in their government and its ability to improve Iraq and the lives of its citizens.
Talking with my Iraqi colleagues and friends, there is a renewed optimism amongst the people that life will continue to get better for the average Iraqi and that they will have the same things we Americans want, life to be better for our children and grandchildren.
McKernan is proud of the work that he and his fellow soldiers have completed during this deployment. He is slated to return home from Iraq in the coming weeks and looks forward to spending time with his two children and his wife, who is an Army Reservist currently serving at Fort Hood. Prior to his current deployment, McKernan has served tours in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq. For his outstanding service, he has been awarded the Bronze Star Medal on three separate occasions.
About the Author
Kelley Lane Sivley has spent nine years as a civilian reporter and staff writer for the award-winning Redstone Rocket, the installation newspaper for Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. In addition to other awards, she is most recently the recipient of a third place recognition in the Keith L. Ware awards, Southeast Region, for articles in a series. Her work has been reprinted in numerous newspapers, publications and web sites, including the APG News, IMCOM World Newsletter and Eye on AMC.
By Kelley Lane-Sivley
Contributing Author for Redstone Rocket
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|Title Annotation:||FEATURE ARTICLES|
|Article Type:||Conference notes|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2010|
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