Although HQ ARRC never deployed to Iraq as a whole, in early May 2008 it was notified to generate two teams to mentor the two main Iraqi headquarters in Basrah. The first of these would mentor the overarching headquarters within the province; the Basrah Operations Command (BaOC) – a Joint, operational headquarters, located in the heart of Basrah, from which command and control of all the security forces within the province was executed. The second team would deploy to mentor the 14th Iraqi Army Infantry Division at Camp Wessam near Shaibah.
The BaOC Advisory Team had three weeks to prepare for its task although some were still on NATO exercises elsewhere when they were informed of the news. However, HQ ARRC is accustomed to short notice tasks and so it was little effort for the bespoke pre-deployment training package to be arranged, kit to be issued and the all-important and precious few days of time with the family to be secured. Before they knew it, the teams were on their way to a warmer place.
Once in theatre the BaOC team undertook additional training in Baghdad under the tutorship of US forces, allowing them to better understand their role. After this the BaOC team returned to Basrah, immediately deploying forward to the Iraqi headquarters. Built by the British in the 1920s, it had been occupied by British forces since the beginning of Operation TELIC until they withdrew to the airbase in late 2006.
The team devised an extensive training programme that would prepare the staff to use a purpose-built multi-million dollar operations centre, whose design was the combination of ARRC experience and cultural awareness. The second strand of the team’s work was to develop the staff processes, necessary for the headquarters to function effectively. Realising that the ARRC had vast experience in this field, the team reached back for whatever material was available. The third strand of work was to support the headquarters in commanding current and planning future operations. The development of the physical infrastructure was beset with problems but the team overcame them all. The final product was an operations centre that the Iraqi Security Forces could be proud of and became the benchmark for their other six operations centres. Staff process development proved equally frustrating. The team realised early that cultural sensitivities had to be considered when the headquarters staff processes were developed.
New motivational methods were sought every day as the Iraqi staff had a robust lessons learned process when it came to outmanoeuvring the team’s efforts to ‘pin them down’. Gradually the headquarters became more capable, culminating in it planning and prosecuting a series of joint operations along the northern border regions. Operation JABAAR-AL-NARR saw Iraqi forces deploy into the rural areas, delivering visible security which was accompanied by a programme of civil outreach – previously unseen in the region. As the tour drew to a close the BaOC team had the opportunity to reflect on its successes. Not only did it create a Joint Operations Centre that rivalled the best in Iraq, it embedded robust staff processes which the Iraqi Minister of Defence defined as the model for the other headquarters to follow.