Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Iraqi Air Force Academy opens its doors

More than 150 cadets from around Iraq began class at the newly re-built Iraqi Air Force College here Sept. 1. The inaugural class's arrival was marked by an Iraqi C-130 aircraft, flown by Iraqi pilots, picking up the students from New Al Muthana Air Base, Baghdad, and transporting them to Tikrit.

"This truly is a historic day for the Iraqi air force," said Brig. Gen. Scott Hanson, the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing commander and director of Iraq Training and Advisory Mission - Air Force. "This latest development represents yet another milestone for their program to develop airmen."

The Iraqi Air Force College mission is similar to that of the U.S. Air Force Academy in that it is designed to train, educate and commission both rated and non-rated officer candidates.

"From the beginning, this was designed to give the Iraqis ownership in moving and processing these cadets," said Col. David Blanks, the 321st Expeditionary Mission Support and Advising Group commander. "In all, the Iraqis completed three sorties to move all 157 cadets to their new home, the Iraqi Air Force College. Our advisors were at the ready to assist where needed, and the whole operation went very smoothly. The Iraqis should be proud of this great accomplishment."

From the moment the cadets loaded onto the aircraft to when they landed at Tikrit to begin student processing, they were under the tutelage of senior Iraqi air force officers, who began the training process immediately.

"When developing the Iraqi Air Force College, they modeled our Air Force Academy in many ways," General Hanson said. "Academic rigor, discipline and physical education mark the curriculum.

"Naturally, we worked side by side with our Iraqi counterparts to make adjustments to the model to fit their needs and requirements, but the education and training these cadets will receive is designed to be top notch," he said. "We have been advising and assisting the Iraqi air force as they've built this program, designed to develop their airmen."

Select cadets will go on to be pilots and others will learn various specialties, such as logistics and maintenance; but all cadets will receive their basic officer training and become commissioned officers in the Iraqi air force, General Hanson said.

It was noteworthy that the Iraqi Air Force College accepted its first class of cadets on the same day Operation New Dawn began, General Hanson said.

"The symbolism is striking," he said. "Iraqi airmen are an indispensable asset, and the future leaders of the Iraqi air force stepped off their own aircraft today at Tikrit."

"This was a proud moment for us all - the Iraqi air force, the U.S. Air Force advisors, and of course, the cadets," he said. "This is just another example of how the Iraqis are taking the lead in developing a credible air force. I look forward to class 76's academic advancements, and ultimately their graduation ceremony."

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