During my time embedded with Kurdish Peshmerga forces, I spent the majority of it in a training and advising role when not conducting combat operations. With this position I have come to acquire a vast amount of experience in what it requires to train soldiers to specific standards. There are basically two routes when it comes to this, you either produce a large amount of basically-trained fighters, or you create a small and highly trained/specialized force. Both, while similar in their respective processes, require and meet completely different standards. This is a very broad subject and this article is by no means the end-all be-all of this subject, but here is what I know. As always, situation dictates.

Unit PT is essential to building unit cohesion and a better all around soldier.

To determine which is best suited for the situation at hand, an in-depth evaluation of resources, logistics and “needs of the Army” must be undertaken. At times we were required to organize or acquire food, transportation, housing, training ammunition, etc. on the fly. These types of things can make or break a proper training evolution and most people never think of it when it comes to training a foreign army.

Interpreters are another huge asset and while I have given entire classes in the Kurdish language (poorly), it definitely helps to have someone who can translate the intricacies, especially when it involves firearms instruction. Location is pretty important as well; sure you can improvise and adapt but it certainly helps to have a suitable building when teaching close quarters battle techniques, or have a long distance range when teaching precision shooting techniques.

Peshmerga soldiers perfect their marksmanship skills from cover with the AK-47 at the 200m line.

Conventional forces can be produced rather quickly and on a smaller budget; but the quality of the individual soldier suffers in correlation to time and subject matter. Basic infantry skills such as marksmanship, standard formations and other fundamental skill sets can be done in as little as a 2 week course, ideally a month. Keep in mind we’re talking some bottom of the barrel, barely-a-trained-soldier-level stuff. Either way, it takes far less time to train men to an acceptable standard in basic infantry skills versus attempting to achieve a level on par with an Army Ranger.

The individual levels of motivation for these men is an unknown variable that is hard to factor in beforehand as well, often have I been in charge of training men and one or two don’t have a fuck to give as far as participation goes. It’s easy to approach this problem with a Drill Instructor solution or simply “boot” them from the course, but all too often these are not applicable to foreign armies with differing cultural backgrounds; they simply don’t respond the same. Standardized programs for conventional forces have to remain dumbed down for this reason; it needs to be on a level of understanding that caters to the average. If the needs of your military are filling out posts, defending borders and occupying territory, then conventional is definitely the way to go.

An instructor gives a class on the use of an RPG to a platoon of Peshmerga

I would like to point out that getting a Peshmerga or Iraqi soldier to an operationally capable level on equal of that of a U.S. Marine is an insanely ambitious goal, and in my mind would definitely be considered a Specialized Force within their ranks.  Keep that in mind. Specialized forces are a unique animal, one that requires time and dedication to produce. Whether they are snipers, reconnaissance or a commando element; creating a group of soldiers that adhere to a higher standard in general as well as posses a unique skill set, is a very demanding target when it comes down to training and even more so when speaking in terms of foreign militaries.

Not only do you have to account for all the typical standardized stuff, but you have to tack on the extra curriculum. Selection is the first step, because even among the ranks of the world’s more primitive militaries, you are going to want the soldiers in specialized roles to, more than anything, want to be there. After a lengthy and thorough selection process, you must train these men into a cohesive entity. Only after this has been achieved can you begin on their specialization. This alone will take months. We can already gather why this is a lengthy/costly process that is often secondary in need to that of a fledgling military. That being said, for some reason the Commanders always want the Gucci stuff first and the cost of producing such a thing is often more than people realize.

Peshmerga fall into their respective squads in preparation of a field training exercise.

If the French hadn’t done the same in training militias during the Revolutionary War, the U.S. would still be a British colony. Training soldiers to fight for their own country, I believe, is more rewarding in the long run than direct engagement with the enemy.  Not only do these soldiers pay the price for the cost of war (literal and metaphorical) but they also gain the experience necessary to defend what they build through this course of action. However this should all be done in coordination with direct action involvement by the vested third-party as well. If done correctly and thoroughly, foreign internal defense will make or break any war.