Georgia to Send 500 More Soldiers to Iraq
|111th Light Infantry Battalion is the fourth
Georgian unit trained within the GTEP
Four battalions of the Georgian armed forces, which underwent the U.S.-led Train-and-Equip (GTEP) program, marched on December 13 in the center of Tbilisi marking the GTEP graduation by the 111th Light Infantry Battalion, which is the fourth Georgian unit trained by the U.S. military instructors.
Total 560 soldieries of the 111th Light Infantry Battalion, as well as two platoons of the Border Guard Department and Interior Troops underwent 100-day training cycle, which focused mainly on company-level infantry tactics and maneuver warfare doctrine.
“I would be proud to go and serve anywhere in the world with such men [GTEP soldiers],” U.S. Maj. Charles A. Western, task force commander said at the graduation ceremony, which was also attended by the Georgian Interim President Nino Burjanadze, Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze, U.S. ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles and other officials.
“I'm very proud of the hard work and dedication that my small team of Marines and U.S. Soldiers put forth, their efforts have had a huge impact on this country,” Maj. Western added.
U.S. ambassador said at the ceremony, that the soldiers trained within the GTEP represent “the high Georgian spirit ... that refuses to tolerate corruption and injustice.”
Interim President Nino Burjanadze, who is also an acting commander in chief of the Georgian armed forces said, “we must not forget the services of President Eduard Shevardnadze [who resigned on November 23] who did much to contribute this program [GTEP].”
Two UH-1 Hueys (donated by the U.S. government) and two Mi-8 Hip helicopters, as well as two Su-25 Frogfoot jets overflew the ceremony.
In total around 2,000 Georgian soldiers underwent the GTEP, which was launched in May 2002 and now they represent the bulwark of the Georgian armed forces. The U.S. allocated USD 64 million to the program.
|Rumsfeld meets GTEP soldiers in Georgia|
During his visit to Georgia in early December U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld before the meeting with the Georgian leadership visited the Krtsanisi training field, where the U.S. military instructors trained the 111th Light Infantry Battalion.
“We believe that the Train-and-Equip has been a success program and we are looking forward for continuation of cooperation and assisting defense reform which has been taking place in Georgia,” the U.S. Secretary of Defense said after the talks with the country’s leadership.
He said that the U.S. Department of Defense and the Georgian Ministry of Defense have discussions about military cooperation “and types of cooperation.” “We anticipate continuing this cooperation in the future,” Donald Rumsfeld added.
The final training cycle of the GTEP will begin in early January 2004 and one more battalion will be trained. It will consist of a mechanized infantry company utilizing T-72 tanks and BMP-1 armored personnel carriers.
“Georgian military who will make up the mechanized armored team to be trained are already been selected and they are undergoing the pre-GTEP training,” Richard Miles, the U.S. ambassador to Tbilisi said at the ceremony.
|Uniforms, small arms, communications and
medical gear, and other equipment for GTEP
soldiers was provided by the U.S.
The GTEP is due to end in May; however, as Georgian Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze said after he visited the United States in October, the sides agreed to extend the GTEP after the spring of 2004. The details of the program are not known yet.
The GTEP-trained soldiers are contracted for three-and-a-half years and receive highest salaries in the Georgian army. The Georgian side undertook to pay wages of the trained militaries. Currently salaries for these officers and soldiers vary between 400-800 Georgian Lari per-month (approximately USD 180-360), depending on a rank.
At the graduation ceremony, the U.S. ambassador also said that Georgia would send additional contingent of soldiers to Iraq, which will join the 70 troops of doctors and mine-clearing experts who have been stationed in the town of Tikrit since August, as part of an international task force in Iraq.
“Over two hundred Georgian soldiers are preparing to relieve them soon. Georgia is planning to send entire battalion of 500 soldiers to Iraq by the summer ,” Richard Miles said.
Miles thanked the Georgian leadership for the contribution of the Georgian troops to Iraq.
It is anticipated that the 113th Light Infantry Battalion will be sent to Iraq, which has already underwent the GTEP this year.