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Australia To Boost Iraqi Army Training

Australia To Boost Iraqi Army Training

An Australian Defence Force team will deploy to Iraq to help accelerate coalition efforts to train the new Iraqi armed forces, Defence Minister Robert Hill announced today.

Senator Hill said the Government had also decided to replace the guided missile frigate HMAS Melbourne in the Persian Gulf following a review of the ADF's contribution to operations in Iraq. It is the first time the Anzac class frigate, HMAS Stuart, will deploy to the Middle East.

In addition, seven Australian Army positions allocated to the British Army in the Balkans would transfer later this month to the United Kingdom headquarters in southern Iraq. The Army officers deployed to these positions will be the first Australians to work directly in support of UK forces in Iraq and will be employed primarily on rehabilitation, community building and governance tasks.

The adjustments to Operation Catalyst maintain the number of ADF personnel serving in the Middle East at about 850.

"Our forces continue to provide outstanding support to coalition forces in many specialist fields as well as protecting Australia's interests in Iraq," Senator Hill said.

"The Government is confident the ADF commitment to operations in Iraq strikes the right balance of highly effective specialist capabilities needed to support ongoing coalition efforts to rebuild the country and transition to self-government."

An additional 53 military personnel drawn primarily from the Army's 1st Brigade in Darwin will be in place in May to train the Iraqi armed forces for a deployment of about six months. This specialist capability will complement the commitment announced in January for Australian sailors to help rebuild the Iraqi navy.

"Our soldiers currently serving with coalition military assistance training teams have already played a major part in graduating the first four battalions of the Iraqi army," Senator Hill said.

"The major element is an Army team of 40 soldiers who will be responsible for training three Iraqi army battalions and the brigade headquarters staff. They will provide training in the full range of professional military and practical skills, including receiving orders and instructions, marching, fitness and weapons training. Our soldiers will also focus on leadership mentoring and equipping Iraqi brigade headquarters senior staff with the skills to maintain and develop the training program."

Senator Hill said extra security detachment personnel and an additional two Australian Light Armoured Vehicles from Darwin would deploy to provide security for the training teams as the Iraqi training base was located outside Baghdad away from the Australian Task Force headquarters.

Additional ADF personnel would also be attached to the coalition training headquarters to support the Australian navy and army training teams and to develop training doctrine, programs and tasks.

HMAS Stuart has just completed intense training in preparation for deployment to the Gulf, where she will carry out the role of contributing to the security of Iraqi territorial waters and offshore oil platforms and the prevention of smuggling into and out of Iraq.

The Stuart is the second ANZAC class frigate to serve in the Gulf and follows the experience of HMAS ANZAC, the first to serve, which played an important role in the early days of last year's war in Iraq.

The ANZAC class has now proven their capabilities on operations and the frigates are a key part of the modern RAN fleet.

Senator Hill said he was immensely proud of the role HMAS Melbourne had played on her deployment that included over 170 compliant boardings and 280 vessel queries.

"HMAS Melbourne has been on station in the Gulf since November last year and she has done a great job for the coalition in the Gulf," Senator Hill said.

"I want to thank the Captain and crew of the Melbourne on behalf of the Government and Australian people, we are all very proud of her service. Details on farewell and welcome home ceremonies will be announced at a later date.

© Scoop Media

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