Huron native to help train Iraqi forces

HURON Deployment to Iraq will be a transition for Major Rich Ramsey. The transition t
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

HURON

Deployment to Iraq will be a transition for Major Rich Ramsey.

The transition to a country knee-deep in a counter insurgency is taking shape on a training field at Fort Riley right now.

Ramsey, a Huron native, is preparing to teach in Iraq, not just fight.

He will leave for Iraq when training ends in mid-August to lead a 10-member Transition Team.

Ramsey said it's unpopular to consider his job an exit strategy, but Transition Teams are designed to prepare Iraqi forces to fend for themselves against insurgents and rebuild Iraq.

Ramsey, 35, graduated from Huron High in 1990. He went on to college and graduated with a political science degree from the University of Michigan in 1994 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

Now a half dozen duty posts later, his classroom isn't at West Point or the Airforce Academy anymore, it will soon be in a dusty tent or courtyard somewhere in the 100-plus degree heat of Iraq.

"Our primary mission is to serve to help educate, train and mentor Iraqi Army forces so that they can eventually effectively secure Iraq," Ramsey said. "That is the 'What,' and that's the easy part; the more challenging part is the 'How.'"

Transition teams are made of soldiers with a wide variety of backgrounds in warfare and security, according to information provided by the U.S. Army. Every soldier is first and foremost a rifleman, but beyond each team member has a specialty like: combat arms, combat support, and combat service support. Ramsey is an armor officer specializing in tank operation.

Part of the primary mission means interacting with the Iraqi Army on a daily basis to train the force to fight, but more importantly it means standing beside the Iraqi Army and fighting shoulder-to-shoulder against insurgents, he said.

Even though there will be fighting, Ramsey said much of what the team will be involved in won't be a "shooting war," it will involve engaging the population -- convincing them that the Iraqi Army can provide for their security more effectively than a militia can.

Training began in June and includes: Iraqi-Arabic language training, cultural awareness and education, counter insurgency doctrine and TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures), roles and responsibilities of military advisors, medical training and qualification on all systems such as vehicles, communications systems, computer systems and weapons.

Ramsey is ready.

"I am both excited and humbled to have the opportunity to serve with our Iraqi partners and I am looking forward to this assignment," Ramsey said.

"It is both an awesome privilege and an awesome responsibility to know that what we do on a day-to-day basis will have an impact," he said. "The people or Iraq are part of an ancient and magnificent culture, and one of our primary responsibilities to them is to appreciate that culture as we cultivate our relationships with them."

The most difficult part of the job: Being away from his family for a year.

While dad is gone, Ramsey's daughters are contributing to the effort.

Thea, 9 and Kyla, 7, are participating on the home front in efforts to rebuild Iraq by operating a lemonade stand to raise money to send paper and pencils to Iraqi schoolchildren.

Ramsey knows the deployment will be arduous.

"If a tactic works this week, it might not work next week. If it works in this province, it might not work in the next," he said. "We have to adapt often and adapt quickly. The insurgents are a resourceful and thinking enemy."

But sometimes the best tactic is not to shoot.

"The bottom line is that success for the U.S. and Iraq lies in two areas: Support from the American public and support from the Iraqi public," he said. "It's about people."