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capacity in Iraq,” Weiss says, “that will lead to an Iraq that has a higher level of partner capability.”


An Operational Focus “Progress has been made working toward the


goal of having the Iraqi Army aviators pick up operational missions in support of security opera- tions in Iraq,” said Cpt. James D. Wells, a Louisiana National Guard Blackhawk maintenance test pilot and aviation maintenance officer at Army Aviation Support Facility 1, Hammond, La., who is on his third tour in Iraq. “They (the Iraqis) are now actively flying mis-


sions in a variety of airframes in support of Iraqi Security Forces; missions that just six months ago were outside their sphere of capabilities,” said Wells. “These missions include pipeline security, routine anti-indirect fire patrols and even night-vision- goggle patrols in support of over watch.” He said, the Iraqi Army aviation helicopter


force discovered four improvised explosive devices, during a route reconnaissance in Anbar province last August. “The Iraqi helicopters radioed back to the


ground commanders and then transported an Iraqi explosive- ordinance disposal team to the scene where they defused the IEDs consisting of 40 kilo- grams of C4 explosives,” he said. “These capabilities, and the Iraqi helicopter


forces’ ability to accomplish them, didn’t just hap- pen,” said Weiss. “They were the result of many months of hard work by the entire team.” Weiss speaks often and glowingly of the team


assembled in Iraq and the difficult and demanding work they have performed in support of this mission.


A Flying Helicopter Pot Purée "With a mixed fleet of aircraft spread around


the country training the force, developing a logis- tical capability to sustain the force has been a monumental challenge." Currently the Iraqis fly the former Soviet Mi- 17, the Mi-171E MM gunship, the Soviet


era


Mi-8, and American helicopters such as the BJR/Bell OH-58, and


the UH-1, upgraded to the


UH-1 P Huey -II which includes upgrades to the engine and transmission as well as a rudimentary flight management system. Recently, the Iraqis took re-delivery of two


Soviet era Mi-8’s that were spirited away to Jordan on the eve of Operation Desert Storm about years ago. The pair were rebuilt in the Ukraine and


20


delivered in pieces to Baghdad International Airport, ready to join the mixed-bag fleet. The fleet is diverse and challenging to train


on and maintain, but like the old TV slogan says, “But wait – there’s more!” fleet five


“The Iraqi’s have in their


civilian Bell Jet Rangers, and six French-made Gazelles,”


newly acquired EC-635 Eurocopters,, said U.S. Army Cpt. Ann Sage, an


Army Beechcraft RC-12, and UH-60 pilot deployed to Iraq for her second tour. Sage and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steven A. Ballew,


a Georgia National Guard Blackhawk pilot, coor- dinate much of the training for the Iraqis, bringing into focus the need for them to have a seat at the table as the government stands-up its equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration to manage air- space.


“It is extremely rewarding to help the Iraqis


understand the need for all the things we take for granted as aviators,” said Ballew, “We know when we


depress the push-to-talk switch there’s a


trained and ready controller at the other end who can respond. – That’s something that does not yet exist in Iraq.”


Off The Shelf and Off To Service Chief Warrant Officer Three Daniel Hill, who


flew AH-64 on active duty during Desert


Shield/Desert Storm and OH-58 for Nebraska Army National Guard, and Chief Warrant Officer Four Jason Ganitano US Army, an OH-58 instructor pilot, assigned to Ft. Rucker, have logged an impressive 466.2 flight hours, 392 sorties and 22 Iraqi Pilots to include four Iraqi Instructor Pilots in the three Bell IA 407’s delivered just


seven


months ago to the airstrip at a dusty Forward Operating Base, 20 miles north of Baghdad called Camp Taji. “The Iraqi pilots have been quick to grasp the


fundamentals of flight, and at the same time have shown a keen interest in the tactical procedures needed for armed reconnaissance,” Hill said. “I guess at the end of the day, helicopter pilots are helicop- ter pilots and the language barriers


notwithstand-


ing, these guys share the same love of flight that we do,“ Hill added.


“One Saddam-era pilot tells the story of


how he was ordered to pick up troops with a Mi- 17 during the Iran-Iraq War,” said Hill. “When he arrived at the LZ he could see the area was swarming with Iranian troops. Rather than abort the mission and report what he saw, he landed near Iranian troops and allowed his helicopter to suffer


13


numerous hits from small arms fire. He feared that if he returned without battle damage he would be punished for disobeying orders,” Hill added. Changing habits in the cockpit and on the


ground has proven successful for these instructor pilots restoring a foundational capability. It’s a foun- dation that


the training team at Camp Taji has


been able to build on throughout the duration of the Advise and Training mission.


Change is in the Wind “This portion of our mission has concluded;


the Advise and Training mission ends on October 1st and the mission here in Iraq takes on a new focus,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christopher Fleming, a North Carolina National Guard Apache pilot. “From here on out it will be the Office of Security Cooperation – Iraq. Negotiations are on-going between the U.S.


and Iraqi government on the trainers and advisor force. One thing that is for certain is that under the auspices of the U.S. State Department, some 200 trainers will remain in Iraq to provide much needed training and guidance as part of OSC-I. U.S. Army Col. Charles J. Burnett, an Army


Blackhawk instructor and maintenance test flight examiner from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., has been tapped to lead the Army


aviation section of


OSC-I. He’s no stranger to providing U.S. expert- ise and security assistance overseas, having com- pleted missions in Colombia, Peru and Paraguay. “Right now, the mission is to build on the


past success of the United States Forces - Iraq, Advising and Training mission and provide the way ahead toward a self sustaining Iraqi Army aviation capability,” said 54-year-old Burnett. Burnett won't be alone; he'll have had hands-


on experience to assist him in that mission. Many of the current A&T team members have volun- teered to stay on to work with Burnett’s team in the OSC-I office, slated to officially take command Oct. 1. “The most important objective is to leave this


country able to provide for its internal security and able to fend-off foreign interference from other nations,” said Burnett. “Army aviation and the heli- copter capability we help provide will play a key role in providing that foundation capability.” For Weiss, Trossen and the many soldiers and


Airmen, both rotary wing aviators and not, the Iraqi helicopter force that takes to the skies over this desert land will be their enduring legacy; a phoenix rising from the ashes for the future of the Iraqi state. ◆


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