Lt. Gen. Anwar Ahmed, Iraqi air force commander, thanks Iraq Training and Advisory Mission - Air advisors for their efforts during his country’s 80th anniversary celebration here April 21. Dozens of U.S. Air Force and Army advisors attended the event. Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Lake.
BAGHDAD (April 27, 2011) — U.S. Air Force and Iraqi officials opened a state-of-the-art air operations center as the Iraqi air force celebrated its 80th anniversary April 21.
The grand opening of a $9 million AOC kicked off a series of festivities celebrating the anniversary of Iraq’s air force April 22, 1931. Not long after the AOC’s grand opening, IqAF officials thanked their U.S. Air Force advisors who attended a celebration at New Al-Muthana Air Base attended by hundreds of Iraqi and American Airmen, sister servicemembers and dignitaries - including Iraq’s Parliamentary Committee Chairman of the Security and Defense, Hassan al-Sunaid.
“Today is a special day,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony Rock, Iraq Training and Advisory Mission - Air director, shortly after the ribbon cutting with key Iraqi military leaders at Hawk Base, Baghdad. “As we commemorate the 80th birthday of the Iraqi air force today, I’m honored to be part of the grand opening of the Iraqi air operations center and a part of an evolutionary step of the Iraqi air force. This new facility will provide the space and enable the technology needed to produce an integrated air picture across the entire country, enabling the support not just for the air force and army aviation command, but potentially to the army, navy and even police forces for unified protection of Iraq.”
According to ITAM - Air’s lead advisor in the AOC, Major Christopher Dotur, Iraqi airmen will be able to monitor and direct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance assets from the new AOC operations floor that is nearly four times the size of the old trailers used before the two-year project was completed. General Rock added that the extra space in the AOC will enable the IqAF to expand its capabilities over time.
“In the not so distant future, a pilot will be able to capture information and provide it to more than one source,” said the general, who leads more than 1,000 Airmen who advise, train and assist their Iraqi partners as they bolster their capability to maintain internal security and defend against external threats. “The potential exists for imagery to be directly fed to multiple C2 [command and control] nodes - enabling instantaneous response capability to any threat, anywhere.”
Following the opening of the AOC, dozens of ITAM-Air advisors joined their Iraqi partners as they celebrated their air force’s 80th anniversary inside an aircraft hangar at New Al-Muthana Air Base, Baghdad.
ITAM - Air advisors from the six major operating locations across the country turned out to not only celebrate the occasion, but also congratulate more than a dozen Iraqi Army Aviation Command rotary wing pilot graduates as Iraq’s Chief of Joint Forces, General Babakir Zebari, pinned on their pilot wings.
“I’m very honored to be a part of the training effort here in Iraq,” explained Capt. Dick Stringer, a T-6 instructor pilot who represented the 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron at the ceremony beside a T-6 Texan II static display. “Sometimes I forget that I’m not back home instructing at the undergraduate pilot training school [at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas]. Then I take a step back and realize the magnitude of what’s going on here in Iraq.”
In a country still marked by terrorist attacks, and in some cases, insurgent-led assassinations, Captain Stringer said he admires the bravery of his Iraqi counterparts who take risks by simply showing up to work.
“Flying with these guys has been one of the most motivating experiences of my career,” explained Captain Stringer, who calls Lubbock, Texas, his hometown. “What these Iraqi airmen have to deal with on a daily basis while going through training is unlike anything we ever had to deal with.”
Last month, Lt. Col. Hamid Hussein, IqAF Squadron 203 commander and first graduate of the 52nd EFTS instructor pilot training program, began training the initial cadre of more than a dozen Iraqi T-6 instructor pilots who aim to lead the program once U.S. military forces transition out of country.
Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, United States Forces-Iraq Deputy Commanding General for Advising and Training, who also attended the IqAF celebration, said the event highlighted the strategic partnership between the two country’s air forces as well as sister services.
“This was a great day to be an Iraqi airman and this was a great day to be an American Airman,” the general said. “The celebration of Iraq’s 80th anniversary of its air force shows the strong partnership of the U.S. Air Force and the capabilities we’re bringing to the Iraqis. We’re making great progress and I’m proud of what our Airmen have done under the leadership of General Rock.”