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Airmen aid in Iraqi election ballot transport

by Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham
U.S. Air Forces Central, Baghdad media outreach team

2/3/2009 - SATHER AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNS) -- Members from the 321st Air Expeditionary Airlift Squadron here did their part in assisting Iraq in the election process Feb. 2.

Maj. Scott Volk and Capt. Chris Dickens, both C-130 Hercules evaluation pilots and aviation advisers for the Iraqi air force, and Master Sgt. Louis Carter, a 321st AEAS combat aviation advisor, boarded an Iraqi C-130E that flew to Mosul and picked up election ballot boxes from Iraq's recent elections.

"We all volunteered for this mission. We all knew it was a part of history," said Captain Dickens, who is deployed from the 62nd Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. "Today we will be on the airplane actively advising (the Iraqi aircrew) in case they have any issues that come up."

As advisers, these aircrew members have played a significant role in helping Iraq become an independent air force.

"Our primary role first and foremost is to train the Iraqi C-130 pilots, we also upgrade other crew positions," said Captain Dickens. "We have upgraded a couple people to instructors. We also help them with their squadron programs, for example, we advise them on flight safety, standardization and evaluations and training."

These Airmen, who have already been deployed here for several months, said the mission was extra special because they were directly involved in Iraq becoming a democracy.

"It feels like you are actually making a difference today and this goes to us maybe getting home," said Sergeant Carter, who is deployed from the 550th Special Operations Squadron at Kirtland AFB, N.M.

"We are all very proud to be a part of this," Captain Dickens said. "The fact that we are gradually getting (the Iraqi C-130 aircrews) closer and closer to becoming independent, where they can operate on their own is a pretty big achievement not only for us, but also for them as well."

The 321st AEAS is a squadron that falls under the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing, responsible to the Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq charged with standing up the Iraqi air force through the Coalition Air Force Training Team here.

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