By Senior Airman Chuck Broadway, U.S. Air Forces Central, Baghdad Media Outreach Team
BASRA OPERATIONS CENTER, Iraq (November 27, 2011) — For several months, airmen at the 467th Expeditionary Intelligence Squadron have worked side-by-side mentoring their Iraqi counterparts at the Basra Operations Center.
“It’s a great partnership with good information exchanged,” said Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Abdukadum, an intelligence officer whose advisor is Air Force Maj. John Keys. “We have only worked with them for a short period of time, but they are extremely wonderful people and we work as one team.”
Keys, who is deployed from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., said the Airmen of the 467th EIS serve as facilitators between the Iraqi Army and U.S. forces in the area.
Though there’s a lot of information to learn – recent subjects have included topography, coordination and collection management, Keys said the Iraqis have caught on quickly and are motivated to progress further.
“When you see some of the young Iraqi soldiers understand things it really makes [our work] gratifying,” said Keys, a native of Columbus, Ohio.
Abdukadum said the current partnership will greatly benefit the Iraqi Army in the future as the young soldiers learn more each day.
“History is going to show that working with the Americans was a great experience,” he said. “They truly worked from their hearts, gave us their full attention and were always ready for us whenever we needed them.”
Airmen and Iraqi soldiers also extended their time outside duty hours. In doing so, relationships were strengthened and trust gained.
“We have tea every night with them and sometimes eat breakfast and dinner with them,” said Maj. Stephen Bichler, a 467th EIS communications adviser deployed from Fort Meade, Md., and native of Random Lake, Wis. “If they think they’re getting good advice from you, they’ll begin to trust you.”
True teammates, the advisers also shared their care packages from home with their Iraqi counterparts.
“Often, the only perception the Iraqis have of Americans is from television shows like Desperate Housewives and Jersey Shore,” said Keys. “When they actually meet and work with us, they see we’re different from what they see on TV.”
Abdukadum said the airmen were not like what he’s seen on TV, they were just like him and other Iraqi officers. He added that airmen such as Keys and Bichler were more than just professional colleagues, “they’re our friends.”