Face of Defense: Airman Trains Iraqi Trainers
By Air Force Senior Airman Jarrod Chavana
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP TAJI, Iraq, March 18, 2010 Air Force Staff Sgt. Gary Graf already was deployed to another location when he was called upon to come here to teach Iraqi servicemembers the ins and outs of communication theories, cable splicing and fiber optics.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Gary Graf demonstrates to some of his Iraqi students how to cut open a cable and separate the wires during a fiber optics maintenance course at Camp Taji, Iraq, Feb. 13, 2010. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Trish Bunting
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"I didn't mind them asking me to come and teach, even though I only had a five-day notice," said Graf, who is deployed from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. "I will do whatever I have to in order to complete the mission.”
U.S. officials are working to rebuild Iraq and create a modern military that has the capability of defending its people and borders from enemies foreign and domestic. The Air Force’s Iraqi training and advisory mission teaches Iraqis how to create a self-sufficient and self-sustaining military. Graf was brought to the 821st Expeditionary Training Squadron here to be part of the instructor team for a 42-day cable and antenna maintenance course.
"This is the first class of its kind here, and they are making huge strides, and everyone must remember they are just starting out with this kind of technology," Graf said. "This class is building a better Iraq. I want to train them, and I hope I can make a difference."
The goal is to train Iraqis to be instructors, and Iraqi counterparts help to bridge the language barrier. "During class, there are times I find it difficult to relate theories to them,” he said, “and that's when my Iraqi counterpart is able to step in and explain it to them."
One of the Iraqi students noted that the course is an important building block for Iraq’s future. "This course will help further the progress of Iraq and help us catch up to the rest of the modern world," Mahmud Hassun said. "What I like most about fiber optics is its accuracy and the capacity of the information that it transmits. When I get back to my base, I can share my experience from this class and help build it up."
Graf said he finds the work gratifying.
"It's cool that someday I will be able to look back and see I made a difference," he said. "It's not going to be overnight. It will take time, but they want to learn, and they can make Iraq into a better place."
(Air Force Senior Airman Jarrod Chavana serves with U.S. Air Forces Central.)