Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Iraq: On Ground Updates - August 26, 2008

Following Post From:
Multi-National Security Transition Command - IraqPublic Affairs Office, Phoenix Base
Release No. 080823-01

Iraqi Air Force bids farewell to Iowa Guardsmen
, August 26, 2008

Soon a group of Iowa National Guardsmen will be leaving Iraq and leaving behind a legacy of training and friendship with their Iraqi Air Force partners.

“This day I would like to say goodbye to our dear friends who gave serious assistance and backup for our air force,” said Lt. Gen. Kamal, IqAF commander. “They did a major job to build our new Air Force.”

“We would like to thank their families, said Kamal. “Because they were so patient waiting for them to do their duties here. Our salute to their families to wish them all the best happiness and joy.”

Six months ago the six volunteer Soldiers from Det. 1 of 1/134 sustainment and support unit came from Waterloo, Iowa, and surrounding areas. They brought a fleet of U.S. Army OH-58C “Kiowa” helicopters and the know-how to keep them flying. These Soldiers and aircraft formed the training base for much of IqAF’s expansion this year.

The OH-58C has an airframe similar to the Bell Jet Ranger helicopters that are also used by the Iraqi Air Force as training aids for new pilots. Iraqi mechanics learned to maintain the OH-58C, and Iraqi pilots learned the basic flying skills they need to fly the Russian-designed Mi-17 that is IqAF’s main combat helicopter.

“This is my office,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marshall Lantz, one of the Iowa Guardsmen as he pointed to an OH-58C.

“I spent six months here. Five months with the actual aircraft. It was pretty rough duty. It was starting at eight in the morning until noon to do dailies and fix what the pilots broke. Go back take power naps, be back on the flight line at six and go to eleven, twelve, one two o’clock in the morning for night flights. That went on six days a week for four months. That was our routine.”

Lantz has been working with the OH-58 for 32 of the 36 years he’s been in the Army. Before that he was a combat engineer. He didn’t work on the Kiowa during the Vietnam War, but recalls, “they flew over my head.”

As if to signal the completion and success of the Guardsmens’ mission, an Iraqi pilot made his first solo flight in the OH-58C with an Iraqi trainer. This was the first time an all-Iraqi crew flew the American helicopter.

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