MORGAN CITY, La. (NNS) -- Through a partnership with the U.S. Navy and U.S. industry designed to help bolster Iraq's maritime security, 50 Iraqi Sailors graduated from patrol boat training during a ceremony July 15 at the Swiftships Shipbuilding facility in Morgan City, La.
The training was held to support the Iraq government as it prepares to take possession of the first of 15 35-meter patrol boats (PBs).
"During the last 90 days we challenged you with a lot of information and expectation. You learned a great deal - core fundamentals, boat systems, navigation, integrated watch standing, seamanship and damage control," said Capt. Ed "Junior" Turner, commanding officer, Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity (NETSAFA), during his remarks at the ceremony. "While the primary goal of the course was to teach you how to drive, maintain and deploy your newly purchased and constructed patrol boats, it's important to remember that taking ownership and operating these boats will truly be the key to enhancing your country's maritime security."
The sailors arrived for training in mid-April 2010 to learn how to use their newly purchased 35-meter PBs. During their training, they lived at Swiftships' temporarily constructed training village, adjacent to the shipyard.
Prior to graduating, the students completed a 90-day blended training program, which consisted of instructor-led classroom training, integrated scenario-based simulator training and underway familiarization aboard a 35-meter PB.
"A special thank you goes out to the interpreters who helped to alleviate any language barriers," said Turner.
Interpreters helped facilitate the training by interpreting nuances of the processes and procedures from the instructors. Three simulators and two trainers re-enforced the classroom instruction through hands-on experience and provided the crew with basic ship-handling skills.
"The Iraqi Sailors receive the same type of training that a U.S. Navy Sailor would receive, including the nuts and bolts of how to maintain and operate a 35-meter boat," said Chris Meyers, an instructor. "When they arrived, they had never seen or been on the boat. By the time they leave, the aim is for them to go back to Iraq, take over the boat and go into full operations."
The full-mission bridge, engine room control and 50-millimeter gun fire control simulators replicate the PB shipboard systems, while the firefighting and small arms trainers teach the sailors basic shipboard skill requirements.
The integrated training incorporates multiple simulators to provide realistic underway scenarios and helps to further develop the crew's proficiency aboard the boat.
"The patrol boat was built in consideration of the type of waterways, oil platforms and close in support and security requirements of the Iraqi forces," said Turner. "It's the ideal size to support the river security and big enough to go out and provide protection for their oil platforms and terminals in the Persian Gulf."
The capstone event was the underway familiarization portion of the training, which consisted of 32-hours of at-sea shipboard evolutions. The underway period built on the knowledge and skills gained by the students in the classroom and simulators. It focused on the ship's operations, damage control and ridged hull inflatable boat operations.
Turner also emphasized how the training supports the evolving state of continual maritime readiness across the globe by the U.S. Navy and its international partners.
"The training is a greater part of Iraq transitioning from U.S. government control to Iraqi government control," Turner said. "The desired effect of the training is to support the building of Iraq's maritime capability, its capacity as a U.S. partner to help support the Maritime Strategy and to foster partnerships and relationships well into the 21st century."
The course wasn't taught entirely at the training village. Students were also given the opportunity to learn more about the United States and the American way of life by taking field trips to Houston, New Orleans museums and local restaurants, sport venues, malls and cultural spots.
The 35-meter PB training program was developed, in coordination with NETSAFA, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Naval Sea Systems Command and Swiftships Shipbuilding.
"The boat is very nice. I've never served on such a new and modern boat," said a senior Iraqi Navy official. "The training we are receiving from the U.S. Navy will make us a better navy. Having the patrol boats will help to create stronger partnerships with our neighbors in the region."
Turner reminded the audience of the importance of partnerships in maintaining security.
"Your decision to serve in a military capacity carries with it awesome responsibility - protection of your flag and defense of your country, something brothers in arms all understand," said Turner. "With that said, as the hand-selected chosen few to be the first class to graduate from this course, comes the yoke of shouldering the added responsibility of being on the forefront of Iraq's emerging modern and professional navy. It was our goal that you will be able to apply some of these principles as you advance throughout your careers and help Iraq's navy continue to grow. You are integral to a continued and valued partnership you share with our Navy and our country."
The next class of 50 sailors is expected to start training in August 2010.
For more news from Naval Education and Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnet/.