CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq --
The Iraqi Ministry of Defense directed that one detachment of helicopters from 4th Squadron, Iraqi Air Force, be located at Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq, in order to provide a rotary wing transportation capability to the Anbar Operations Command, a command center for all Iraqi security forces in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.
The detachment arrived at Camp Al Taqaddum Nov. 7 and was greeted by Marines of Combat Logistics Regiment 27 (Forward).
The Iraqi Air Force was formed in 1931 and was originally under British command. The service started out small but grew quickly, gaining more than 950 aircraft and becoming one of the largest air forces in the Middle East region by 1988.
In 2003, when the United States initially invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein ordered that the majority of the aircraft be disassembled or buried and ordered them to not defend the country’s airspace against U.S. forces. The Iraqi Air Force appeared non-existent during the invasion and during most of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Currently the IQAF is in a rebuilding process to strengthen their air power capabilities.
The detachment of 17 Iraqi Air Force personnel, consisting of 11 maintenance staff, five pilots and one engineer, came from Basra and Taji and brought with them two Iraqi Air Force Mi-17 helicopters.
The Iraqi airmen are enthusiastic and optimistic about their new mission.
“We are very happy to be here and to see all of the welcoming faces of the Marines,” said Iraqi Air Force Staff Lt. Col. Hammadi Muhammad, a pilot and safety officer with 4th Squadron.
CLR-27 (Fwd) supported the initial setup of the detachment by providing them with life support and acted as a bridge between the IQAF and the U.S. Army brigade that will be taking over after the Marines depart the base, said Maj. Robert J. Gallagher, the air operations officer for CLR-27 (Fwd).
“The Marines are currently providing the IQAF with buildings for work, living quarters, electricity, water, facilities for maintenance, and a place to refuel,” Gallagher said. “We are setting them up to stand on their own when U.S. forces leave TQ.”
Five U.S. Air Force advisors arrived along with the detachment and will train and mentor the IQAF until they are able to operate on their own. The U.S. airmen make up the Joint Air Operations Integration Team, 321st Air Expeditionary Advisor Group, Iraqi Transition and Advisor Mission.
The JAOIT has spent approximately six months advising the IQAF squadron prior to accompanying them to Camp Al Taqaddum.
“We will be here until we get them to a point where they are fully operational,” said Air Force Maj. Ash Cannon, an advisor to the IQAF. “Our goal is to create a credible and competent air force that can provide both national and regional stability for the country to be able to defend itself as a sovereign nation.”
The IQAF squadron will be providing direct support for Staff Maj. Gen. Abdule Aiziz, the commander of the Anbar Operations Center. They will be supporting his missions as he circulates from base to base to see his commanders and visit with U.S. forces, said Gallagher.