U.S., Iraqi Aviators Fly Together
By Army Sgt. Travis Zielinski
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP TAJI, Iraq, Jan. 25, 2010 U.S. Division Center AH-64 Apache helicopter pilots from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Air Cavalry Brigade flew a second joint mission Jan. 20 with UH-1 Huey helicopter pilots from the Iraqi air force.
U.S. Army aviators move an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter behind an Iraqi air force UH-1 Huey helicopter at Camp Taji, Iraq, before taking off for a combined mission in and around Baghdad, Jan. 20, 2010. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Travis Zielinski
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“We have taken the lessons learned from the first flight and used them to start building more complex missions,” said Army Capt. Kevin Britt a Las Vegas native and assistant operations officer and Apache pilot in 1-227th.
On the first mission, Iraqi squadron commanders flew the helicopters. This time, the younger pilots had the opportunity to step in and gain experience. One of the components of the mission was trust and teaching that trust to the rest of the formations of both military forces, Britt said.
“There are some small differences from the way we do things to the way the Iraqis fly,” said Britt.
He said the two nations’ pilots can learn from one another, and that the missions give the American pilots a chance to see how the Iraqis handle situations so together they can look for ways to improve.
The first mission was considered a foundation in trust in partnership, Britt said, and this one had a more deliberate objective.
“This is a recon mission to observe areas in and around Baghdad that can be used as landing zones for future operations,” Britt said. “There were some big steps made from the first mission. This time, the Iraqis had more of the lead.”
Referring to the Iraqi pilots as true professionals, Army Capt. Brian Haas, from Ashley, N.D., an Apache pilot and commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-227th, said he believes such training missions truly make him love his job.
“Even though we are not shooting, missions like this still make a difference,” he said. “Our presence in the air with the Iraqis makes a statement.”
Getting positive feedback from a mission always is welcome, and getting positive feedback from civilians on the ground shows how far the Iraqi air force has come, Britt said.
“The Iraqi pilots have received good praise from the Baghdad populace for the first mission,” he said. “We [Americans] don’t get to hear that stuff, so it is nice to know that the flights have a positive effect.”
(Army Sgt. Travis Zielinski serves in U.S. Division Center with the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.)