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Basic training instructors help mold Iraq's future leaders

by Staff Sgt. Harry Kibbe
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Combat Correspondent Team

12/14/2007 - Taji Air Base, Iraq (AFPN) -- The bark of the military training instructor's command voice, when heard by many current and former Airmen, may bring back memories of one of the most stressful periods of their lives, basic training.

However, for the Iraqi air force warrant officer candidates in training here, it is the sound of a new era in their military history. 

The barking voices belong to a team of six MTIs from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, who are here to help mold Iraq's future leaders.

"We're here to help the Iraqi air force get into the air and into the counter insurgency fight, and we do that by helping advise and train the Iraqi air force through the Iraqi Air Force Training School," said Lt. Col. Kim Hawthorne, the 370th Training Squadron commander.

The school is part of the Coalition Air Force Transition Team, or CAFTT, here to help rebuild the Iraqi air force. 

When the team started, back in February, they had very little, Colonel Hawthorne said. They were a team of just eleven Airmen working out of a temporary building with little to no supplies. Now, the staff is up to around eighty Airmen, and since October, they have operated out of "The Castle," a two story white building on Taji Air Base.

Staff Sgt. Benny Fields has been a MTI for two years, and volunteered to deploy here in support of the Air Force Training School.

"One of the biggest things we can do for them is to show them that without Saddam Hussein they can stand on their own two feet, and they can defend their own air space and borders," he said.

The instructors teach courses on the profession of arms, leadership and followership, and many other subjects U.S. Airmen study at NCO academies. The goal is to give Iraq's air force a strong warrant officer core to act as the backbone of their force, much like NCOs and senior NCOs in the U.S. Air Force. 

"We're teaching them integrity first, service before self and excellence in all they do," said Tech. Sgt. William Hamrick, another MTI deployed here. "While it's going to take them a little while to get that into their soul, they are enjoying what we're teaching them and as a result we are seeing changes."

The changes Sergeant Hamrick and his fellow MTIs see are the increased professionalism and confidence of these airmen, they said.

"We hold them to a standard that the Iraqi air force set for them, and when they meet that standard, and you show them that they've done a great job, they get excited and motivated to keep doing a great job," he said.

The lessons taught here are designed to help rebuild the Iraqi air force, but a byproduct of the CAFTT mission,is the pride these Airmen get from helping new allies, Colonel Hawthorne said.

"When my grandkids are sitting on my knee, I'm going to be able to tell them about what I did here and about the difference that the U.S. Air Force was able to have, helping to build a credible Iraqi air force," he said.

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