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Kirkuk - New IAF aircraft
KIRKUK REGIONAL AIR BASE, Iraq - Staff Sgt. Erik Ruppert, 52nd Expeditionary Flight Training School crew chief, marshals Lt. Col. Mark Bennett, 52 EFTS Commander, and Gen. Alaa, Iraqi Air Force, for the first flight of the new aircraft in service , Oct. 19. Two Cessnas were shipped in for the training school only four days ago and the maintenance personnel worked around the clock to get both of them operational. These fixed-wing Cessnas will be the first aircraft used in training of the new Iraqi Air Force pilots. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Senior Airman Jeremy McGuffin)
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Wright-Patt plays a part in training future Iraqi pilots

Posted 10/31/2007   Updated 10/31/2007 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Jared Marquis
506th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

10/31/2007 - KIRKUK REGIONAL AIR BASE, Iraq  -- The first two aircraft to be used to train the pilots of the future Iraqi air force arrived here Oct. 19 via a C-17 Globemaster III. 

The aircraft are the first of 12 Cessna 172 aircraft scheduled to be delivered to Kirkuk where they will serve as basic training aircraft for the Iraqi Air Force Flying Training School. Acquisition of these aircraft and associated contractor logistics support is the responsibility of the 337th Aeronautical Systems Group Foreign Military Sales team.

The 337 AESG FMS team, part of the 77th Aeronautical Systems Wing, worked closely with the Coalition Air Force Transition Team to quickly respond to the Iraqi Air Force's urgent need for training aircraft. To support the Flying Training School's scheduled opening date, the team negotiated delivery of the first 172 aircraft within three months of the contract award date with Cessna Aircraft Company.

The team set out to beat the delivery schedule right after contract award. Government and contractor representatives from across the country coordinated efforts to move the first aircraft and associated equipment as quickly as possible to Kirkuk. Those efforts paid off; the aircraft arrived approximately two weeks ahead of schedule.

The 506th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron tracked and procured the equipment necessary to offload the two Cessna 172s and transferred them to the 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron.

"Our part began when the package arrived here, we were able to track the shipment from the point of origin until it reached Kirkuk," said Capt. William Moncrieff, 506th ELRS operations officer deployed from F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. "The coordination and teamwork involved is what made this historic day possible and the success is a testament to the professionalism and skills of everyone who took part in this historic day."

For many involved in the process, it was a historical moment.

Tech. Sgt. Roger Wehrenberg, 506th ELRS, deployed from Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, Texas, who helped unload the aircraft, was excited to be involved in the process.

"It's a great feeling to help a country create an air force from the ground up and I am glad to be a part of it," he said.

The Cessnas will be transferred to the Iraqi air force hangar, where contractors will uncrate and assemble them.

Senior Master Sgt. Antonio Kitt, 52nd EFTS, deployed from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., said this is just the next step in getting the first ten Iraqi pilots the training they need to protect their country.

"We are very enthusiastic about getting these two aircraft put together and getting them in the air. As a maintainer, I am looking forward to getting out there and getting my hands dirty, first with the contractors, and later with the Iraqi maintainers," Sergeant Kitt said.

Lt. Col. Mark Bennett, 52nd EFTS commander, deployed from Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, said the plan is to fly the first student sorties in the C-172 as soon as the aircraft have been assembled and tested, but this success is just a small piece of the ultimate goal.

"Building an air force from the ground up takes highly trained Airman advisors, dedication and time. This is all part of the Coalition effort to focus on partnering with Iraq to build a credible air force to support the counter insurgency while laying the ground work for defending air sovereignty in the future."

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