By Air Force Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 19, 2009 - Aided by U.S. Air Force aircrews, Iraqi air force members reached a milestone in their quest toward self-sufficiency in night-vision operations. Airmen of the 721st Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron here, who train Iraqi aircrew members, relinquished control Feb. 8 as an all-Iraqi aircrew took the reins and flew their first solo night-vision mission in a UH-1HII Huey helicopter.
"They have flown at night, but none of these guys have flown [using night-vision goggles], specifically the instructors we are training," Air Force Capt. Kevin Burns, 721st AEAS pilot advisor, said. "This gives the Iraqi air force a night-operation capability that was previously nonexistent."
Before the all-Iraqi flight, the U.S. airmen flew with the Iraqis for training purposes.
"The ultimate goal is to have one advisor that is not doing any training with them, and then eventually pulls out completely, and the [Iraqi] 2nd Squadron can fully self-sustain not only their day training, but their [night-vision] missions as well," Burns said.
Iraqi Lt. Col. Abbas, 2nd Squadron training officer and pilot, thanked the U.S. advisors and attributed mission success to the airmen.
The Iraqi air force first acquired night-vision goggles in June, and began their night training on American OH-58 Kiowa helicopters on loan from the Iowa National Guard.
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham serves with U.S. Air Forces Central's Baghdad Media Outreach Team.)