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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraqi officials visit Balad to better understand base transition

by Senior Airman Tong Duong
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

2/4/2011 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- The 321st Air Expeditionary Wing commander and several Iraqi air force senior leaders toured the flightline and facilities here Feb. 1.

Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Rock, the commander of the 321st AEW and the director of the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air, toured the base with General Wamid, the director of plans, programs and policies for the Iraqi air force; as well as the Iraqi air force deputy of operations and directors of communication, logistics and civil affairs.

The purpose of the tour was to allow Iraqi officials to better understand how to reoccupy this base after the security agreement is executed and all U.S. forces transition out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

"We are here in the partnership with our Iraqi brothers to have senior leaders' eyes on target," General Rock said. "This facility will be theirs in a few months and we want to talk about how we are going to hand it over to them and what condition (the base) is in, so we can better understand and plan together as a team on how they can have an effective air base as soon as we leave."

General Wamid was assigned to the then-Al Bakir Air Base as an Iraqi fighter pilot in 2001. Ten years later he returned for the first time, leading his team to see the base layout, runways, facilities and fighter aircraft operations, so that Iraqi air force officials can start detailed planning for their reoccupation.

While Iraq's council of ministers has approved its government's negotiations with the U.S. to buy a limited number of F-16 Fighting Falcons, it is not yet confirmed if they intend to do so, but General Rock said it is likely the F-16's would be housed here if purchased.

General Rock said he is focused on helping to rebuild Iraq.

"I miss my family, but there is no other place I would want to be," he said. "It is a bit of irony for me. The last time I deployed, I was flying F-15 Eagles out of Saudi Arabia. I was tasked to liberate Kuwait by providing air superiority, and here I am 20 years later helping the Iraqis build up their air force. You just can't make that stuff up."

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