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Airmen help Iraqi aircrew perform night-vision missions

by Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham
U.S. Air Forces Central, Baghdad Media Outreach Team

2/13/2009 - TAJI AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNS) -- An initiative that has been in the works since August 2008 is now a realization as members of the Iraqi air force continued their quest toward night-vision operations with the help of U.S. Air Force aircrews.

Airmen from the 721st Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron, who train Iraqi aircrew members, relinquished control Feb. 8 as an Iraqi aircrew took the reins and flew their first all Iraqi crew night-vision mission in an UH-1HII Huey.

"They have flown at night, but none of these guys have flown (using) NVGs, specifically the instructors we are training," said Capt. Kevin Burns, 721st AEAS pilot advisor. "This gives the Iraqi air force a night operation capability that was previously non-existent."

Before flying as an all Iraqi aircrew, Airmen from the 721st AEAS flew with the Iraqis, ensuring mission success.

Lt. Col. Abbas, Iraqi 2nd Squadron training officer and Iraqi pilot, said, without the help of the U.S. advisors they wouldn't be where they are today.

Before taking off for the all Iraqi aircrew flight, Captain Burns had to certify one last aircrew member in night mission aerial maneuvers, who after being certified would join Colonel Abbas, the lead instructor, to complete the milestone Iraqi flight.

"The ultimate goal is to have one advisor that is not doing any training with them, and then eventually pulls out completely and the 2nd Squadron can fully self sustain not only their day training, but their NVG missions as well," said Captain Burns.

The Iraqi air force first acquired night-vision goggles in June 2008 and began their night training on American OH-58 Kiowa helicopters on loan from the Iowa National Guard.

 



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