Iraqi Pilots Graduate

The fledgling Iraqi air force celebrated another milestone Oct. 13 with the graduation of the first three pilots from its sole fixed-wing flight training school at Kirkuk Regional Air Base. “These new pilots are the first the Iraqi Air Force has produced since the fall of Saddam Hussein,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Brauner, commander of the 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron that is helping to train the Iraqis as part of US-led Coalition Air Force Training Team efforts to re-establish the Iraqi air component. He continued, “They are the new generation of Iraqi pilots, trained to higher standards and to greater qualifications than ever before in Iraq’s history.” In fact, they are the first Iraqi pilots who are fully qualified as instrument-rated pilots straight out of pilot training, Brauner said. The three Iraqis underwent four months of language instruction, followed by six months of officer training at Taji Base, and then 12 months at Kirkuk flying Cessna 172S Skyhawk and Cessna 208B Caravan aircraft. One of the graduates is staying on at Kirkuk to become an instructor pilot. A second will fly a King Air twin-turboprop aircraft on operational missions, while the third will travel to the United States to learn to fly the T-6 Texan. “All of us are very proud,” said one of the Iraqi pilots. He added, “We stuck together with the Americans as one team to the end, and now I have my wings.” (Kirkuk report by TSgt. Jeff Walston)