Iraqi air force leaders attend conference at Balad

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Three Iraqi air force air staff generals and five representatives from different bases visited June 8 and 9 here to experience a U.S. Air Force base. 

Joint Base Balad was chosen to host the visit because it is the only base in Iraq that could provide the opportunity for Airmen to work with Iraqi airmen on a base hosted by the Air Force.

"This conference was a great step forward for the Iraqi air force as we continue to grow our lasting relationship with the U.S. Air Force," said Iraqi air force Staff Lt. Gen. Anwar Hamad Amen Ahmen, the Iraqi air force commander. "JB Balad is an excellent example of how leaders can provide high quality of life for their Airmen while providing a strong air defense for Iraq. I appreciate all that our American brothers and sisters at JB Balad have done to welcome and train our Iraqi airmen as we work together to transition these facilities to the Iraqi air force."

"The Balad Air Base Iraqi infrastructure continues to grow as the Iraqi air force presses forward to gain a solid foundation on JB Balad for a successful transition at the end mission," said Maj. Clayton Bartels, the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air Transition Team chief.

During the first day, Iraqi air force leaders met with members of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron. Some of the items on their agenda were visiting airfield operations, the air traffic control tower and viewing spall repairs on a runway.

The next day consisted of visiting with members of the 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group and 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group. Some of their stops included the power plant, water treatment plant, fuel bunker and Joint Defense Operations Center.

"I found it very appropriate that in the 332nd ESFS briefing they mentioned that it takes an Airman to defend and air base because Airmen understand what they need to do to protect the base while still enabling the aircraft to do their mission," Major Bartels said.

The Iraqi air force leaders were also able to have lunch with Brig. Gen. Kurt Neubauer, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, and Col. Christopher Craige, the 332nd AEW vice commander.

"It was interesting to hear them talk because they are all fighter pilots, so they used that as common ground and they were able to communicate very well with each other," Major Bartles said.

Although there were some cultural differences, all parties involved said they had a mutual understanding.

"I had never worked with Iraqi generals before and after the past few days, I have realized they are just like us," said Capt. Jay Stellwagen, a 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron adviser. "They are people trying to make their country better, and we are a cog in the wheel helping them become that."

Recently, the amount of airmen from the Iraqi air force at JB Balad has grown.

"Their facilities are branching out, they are living and working here and are thinking about how to run the base," Captain Stellwagen said.

"They are good guys who are eager to learn," said Staff Sgt. Michael Bahr, a 332nd ECES adviser.