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Equipping the Iraqi
Security Forces

One of the 1st Infantry Division’s tasks during Operation Iraqi Freedom II was to oversee the establishment of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) within Task Force Danger’s area of responsibility. This was a very important mission because the ISF is essential to the successful transfer of authority to the Iraqi people. Equipping the ISF and maintaining asset visibility for all the equipment issued to it was, and continues to be, a large project for the 1st Infantry Division Property Book Office.

The ISF consists of four organizations: the Iraqi National Guard, the Iraqi Security Police, the Department of Border Patrol, and the Facilities Protection Services. The members of all four organizations were recruited from the Iraqi population, and most of their equipment consists of weapons the recruits furnished and vehicles they confiscated.

This eclectic collection of equipment presented several challenges to the ISF leaders. First, they had no way to determine combat power. The commanders had difficulty determining which units were prepared for security operations and which were not. Because its members brought varying amounts of equipment to the ISF, some units were well equipped and others had very little equipment on hand. This created an extremely difficult environment for commanders at all levels. Second, the United States was in the process of purchasing large quantities of equipment for the ISF. Without a good understanding of individual unit equipment levels, it would be very difficult to field equipment to the units that had the most pressing requirements. Finally, in order to build a professional force, the ISF needed to develop supply discipline, which is an important component of unit discipline. The Division Property Book Office was tasked to develop a property management system that would address all of these shortcomings.

Gaining Control of the Equipment

The division’s first step was to gain visibility and control of the equipment already possessed by the ISF units in the Task Force Danger area. Each unit, in coordination with its U.S. partner unit, conducted an inventory of its equipment and reported the information to the ISF cell located in the Division G–3. The ISF cell, in turn, relayed the information to the Division Materiel Management Center (DMMC) and the Division Property Book Office. After this information was gathered and consolidated, the Property Book Office began building a property book for the ISF forces using the Standard Property Book System–Redesign. Once accountability was established, copies of the 60 primary hand receipts were sent to the U.S. partner units for distribution to, and validation with, the ISF units.

At the same time, sub-hand receipts and individual clothing and equipment documents were prepared and distributed in both Arabic and English. This allowed the Iraqis to begin establishing accountability and supply discipline at the unit level.

Equipping the Force

The most difficult and dangerous part of building the ISF was receiving their equipment and fielding it to them. The ISF lacked most of the equipment needed to maintain a credible force. The Multinational Coalition-Iraq established a central distribution center for all ISF equipment at Forward Operating Base Cooke in Taji, which is just north of Baghdad and approximately 130 kilometers south of Forward Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit. Because the 1st Infantry DMMC and Property Book Office were located at Forward Operating Base Speicher, that base was chosen as the distribution center for all ISF units in Task Force Danger’s area of responsibility.

The Division Property Book Office, along with the division’s ammunition and general supply offices, conducted several combat logistics patrols from Tikrit to Taji in an effort to fill the ISF’s equipment needs. As equipment was received, it was prepared for issue and provided to the ISF units when needed.

Receiving and issuing equipment is an ongoing process. After each receipt of equipment, the DMMC develops a distribution plan and coordinates issue of the equipment to the ISF units through the U.S. partner units. Before the equipment is issued, the partner unit and ISF representative conduct a joint inventory. The equipment then is issued to the ISF representative, who then sub-hand receipts it to the individual units.

At first, the Iraqis had little concept of maintaining accountability and responsibility for equipment in their possession. They wanted the equipment; they just didn’t want to sign for it. However, over time they made significant progress and now have a much better understanding of the requirements and benefits of equipment accountability.

Maintaining the Force

At first, the ISF property records were maintained in one Standard Property Book System–Redesign system at the Division Property Book Office. Once the ISF units were established and the influx of new equipment slowed, the Division Property Book Officer decided to use a team method similar to the one used by the 1st Infantry Division to manage its property. The division places a property book team inside each brigade combat team (BCT), collocating each property book team with the forward support battalion supporting that brigade. This has worked very well for the geographically dispersed BCTs. The team chiefs have better knowledge of the commands they support, and, because of the collocation, units travel less for support.

Accounting for ISF equipment is an additional duty for the 1st Infantry Division property book teams. Each team is responsible for a BCT and all ISF units collocated with it. They maintain the Standard Property Book System–Redesign records with input from ISF soldiers and the U.S. partner units. The original plan was to have ISF soldiers stationed with each team. However, because of the difficulty of finding an ISF soldier who could use a computer and read and write English, the idea
was abandoned.

Overseeing the establishment of the ISF units has been a unique and challenging mission. Soldiers rarely have the opportunity to help establish a military organization from scratch. Each day brings new improvements in both the capabilities of the ISF units and the supply discipline they practice. In 3 months, the ISF transitioned from an underequipped, nascent organization to a better equipped, more disciplined force. They still have a long journey ahead, but the foundations have been laid.

By January 2005, the ISF in the Task Force Danger area had received over 70,000 major end items, including 25,000 weapons, nearly 4,500 radios, and over 1,800 vehicles. They also had developed a better understanding and appreciation for property accountability and asset visibility practices. ALOG

Chief Warrant Officer (W–3) Brian Edwards is the Assistant Division Property Book Officer for the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) and is currently deployed to Iraq. He holds a master’s degree in business management from Bowie State University in Maryland.