In an effort to strengthen the strategic partnership between Iraq and U.S., Airmen assigned to the 821st Expeditionary Training Squadron here are helping the Iraqi government and its people develop a stable and self-reliant air force for their nation.
Airmen with the 821st ETRS work daily with the faculty and students at the Iraqi Air Force Training School to help it become a self-sufficient training pipeline for the Iraqi air force and Ministry of Defense.
"We have helped stand up a training school from scratch," said Lt. Col. Dawn A. Nickell, the 821st ETRS commander. "The school has come a long way, from nothing to being completely Iraqi run. It's heartening to see that they have made that much progress. They are not at the finish line yet, but they are doing the right things to get there."
The school, which was established in 2007, offers professional military training, technical training and English language training for the Iraqi air force and MOD.
"We started with a very small school but we are continuing to grow," said the Iraqi Air Force Training School's commandant.
According to the school's deputy commandant, a good air force starts with a good school and training is important.
New Iraqi air force cadets and those returning to service will attend the basic military training and refresher training, respectively, to teach them the basics of being in the military and the importance of physical fitness.
"BMT is just how you would imagine it to be," said Maj. Korey Vaughn, the 821st ETRS professional military training chief. "They teach the cadets about the Iraqi air force culture and heritage."
For more advanced training, Iraqi airmen attend one of the school's 27 technical training courses. The courses range from maintenance supervision to radio communication. Of all the courses, 22 are 100-percent taught by Iraqis. Air advisers assist when needed and help instruct the remaining five courses, which are planned to be transferred to Iraqi Air Force control.
"I'm no longer in an instructor role; I am in an adviser role," said Master Sgt. Jason Benford, the 821st ETRS Technical Training Section superintendent. "In my time here, I have seen the Iraqis improve their ability to take control of their own training programs. We are stepping back and they are taking over. They are running on their own two feet."
One distinctive class is the petroleum, oils and lubricants course, which teaches the basics of POL, including the hazards, environmental percussions, fuel storage, how to issue fuel and more significantly, how to sample the fuel.
"Properly sampling the fuel is one of the keys in Iraq," said Master Sgt. Nathan McCoy, the 821st ETRS Aviation Fuels air adviser. "The school has reached out and gotten subject-matter experts from the operational side of the base to help teach this important course."
To attend some advanced technical training, students must complete the school's English language training, which also satisfies the Iraqi air force's fourth core value, English language. The ELT at the Iraqi Air Force Training School is based on the Defense Language Institutes' program for teaching the English language. The program consists of 36 books and can take up to 12 months to complete.
The school's commandant and Colonel Nickell agree on the importance for all Iraqi airmen to learn English.
"English is the international language for aviation," Colonel Nickell said. "Mastering the English language is a key to the future success of Iraqi air force operations."
The success of the Iraqi air force will continue to grow with the continued support from U.S. advisors and U.S. Air Force Airmen are playing a tremendous part in providing that support.
"It is nice to see this blossoming school and know that U.S. Airmen are playing a big role in making it possible," Colonel Nickell said.
Article by Staff Sgt. R. Michael Longoria, 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force - Iraq