Iraqi Air Force Stands Up New Al Muthana Air Base
By Spc. Rick Czepka, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, March 7, 2006 The Iraqi air force, along with its coalition partners, officially opened a new air base in Baghdad today.
U.S. airmen from Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's Coalition Air Force Transition Team stand in formation during the formal stand up of the new Al Muthana Air Base in Iraq March 7. Photo by Master Sgt. Will Ackerman, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The Al Muthana Air Base, near the international airport, provides a foundation on which Iraq's air force can rebuild with help from its allies, U.S. officials said.
On display were two C-130E transport aircraft, paid for by both the United States and Iraqi governments as part of a U.S. and foreign military sales program, said U.S. Air Force Maj. David Barna, a deputy base unit support adviser. The planes will be used to support the Iraqi armed forces in rapidly deploying equipment and personnel and in monitoring Iraq's borders, he said.
Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, paid for by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, were also displayed at the new air base. The helicopters will be integrated into the Iraqi air force's existing helicopter squadron and will be used in a support capacity, Barna said.
"It is important for Iraqis," said Iraqi Maj. Gen. Kamal of the base. "It is important for them to see tangible results and cooperation," he said. "Building up an air force takes so much work, finance and dedication."
Although Iraq's air force is much smaller now compared to during Saddam Hussein's era, now it is better than before, Iraqi Col. Jabber said. "Now our air force supports the government and the people. In the past the air force only supported Saddam," he said. "We are humanitarian now."
The Iraqi air force flew its first cross-border humanitarian mission last month, taking five children to Turkey for eye surgery.
The new air base, although operational, is still undergoing construction and will be the backbone of Iraq's air power, Jabber said.
(U.S. Army Spc. Rick Czepka is assigned to the 124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)