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Air Cav, Iraqi Air Force maintain partnership with joint flight

Jan 25, 2010

By Sgt. Travis Zielinski 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., USD-C

CAMP TAJI, Iraq -- Military leaders are hoping the presence of an Iraqi aircraft and a U.S. aircraft flying side-by-side will send a positive message to the Iraqi population, again.

AH-64 Apache helicopter pilots from 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division - Center, flew a second joint mission Jan. 20 with UH-1 Iroquois helicopter pilots from 2nd Squadron of the Iraqi Air Force.

"We have taken the lessons learned from the first flight and used them to start building more complex missions," said Capt. Kevin Britt, from Las Vegas, assistant operations officer and Apache pilot in 1-227th.

On the first mission, Iraqi squadron commanders piloted the helicopters. This time, the younger pilots had the opportunity to step in and gain experience. One of the components of the mission was trust and teaching that trust to the rest of the formations of both military forces, said Britt.

"There are some small differences from the way we do things to the way the Iraqis fly," said Britt.

He said the two nations' pilots can learn from one another; the missions provide them the opportunity to see how the Iraqis handle situations so together they can look for ways for to improve.

The first mission was considered a foundation in trust in partnership, said Britt; this one had a more deliberate objective.

"This is a recon mission to observe areas in and around Baghdad that can be used as landing zones for future operations," Britt said. "There were some big steps made from the first mission. This time, the Iraqis had more of the lead."

Referring to the Iraqi pilots as true professionals, Capt. Brian Haas, from Ashley, N.D., an Apache pilot and commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-227th, said he believes training missions like the one on Jan. 20 truly make him love his job.

"Even though we are not shooting, missions like this still make a difference," said Haas. "Our presence in the air with the Iraqis makes a statement."

Getting positive feedback from a mission is always welcomed, said Britt; getting positive feedback from civilians on the ground shows how far the Iraqi Air Force has come.

"The Iraqi pilots have received good praise from the Baghdad populace for the first mission," said Britt. "We (Americans) don't get to hear that stuff, so it is nice to know that the flights have a positive effect."

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