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Airmen train, advise, assist Iraqi AF

BAGHDAD (AFNS) -- Airmen of the 370th and 770th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadrons play an important role in assisting the Iraqi military by sending critical cargo and forces downrange to support the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. These Airmen are responsible for advising and assisting the Iraqi air force in maintaining and flying the C-130J Super Hercules.

“We help train, assist and advise the Iraqi air force so they can provide a safe and reliable air enterprise for their C-130 program,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kyle Robinson, a 770th AEAS crew chief advisor. “The C-130Js are their main cargo and personnel transport for their fight against ISIS.”

Before they can work on the aircraft, the Iraqi Airmen must be fully trained and knowledgeable of the C-130.

“We are trying to build a training program with them right now,” Robinson said. “All the Iraqis are very knowledgeable from my personal experience and are all very motivated to get the job done.”

The mission hasn’t come without some unique difficulties, said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Roberto Flores, a 770th AEAS air fuels advisor. For instance, it’s been unusual for the coalition trainers to step back and allow their Iraqi counterparts to fight the war rather than doing it themselves.

“(One of the) challenges with working as an advisor is it’s not my air force we are running here,” Flores said. “So I’m coming here bringing some of the tips and tricks of the trade, without actually getting hands on turning wrenches and pushing fuel.”

Another challenge of the job is working alongside airmen from another culture.

“A lot of the challenges we face are mostly language barrier, but working with interpreters help bridge that gap,” Robinson said.

Learning about culture is key to working with the Iraqi Airmen. The work day often starts with sharing a drink common among the people of Iraq: tea, or “chai” as it’s known by the Iraqis.

“Drinking tea is part of their custom, something that’s incorporated in their daily activities,” Flores said. “If you are offered chai with one of these guys, you are doing something right.”

The advise and assist program has brought military members from different cultures and backgrounds together to work for a common goal: victory over ISIS.

“They (coalition trainees) are a big help for us, supplying us with everything we need,” said Iraqi air force Maj. Sarmad Kamal, a loadmaster. “If we go to a tactical mission, these guys are the first to show up.”

The airmen from the U.S. and Iraq now share a bond as a result of working so closely together.

“They are like brothers to me,” Kamal said. “I love my job and love the flight here.”