New Iraqi air force curriculum to combine air traffic control, airfield management

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Randy Redman
  • 321st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
With less than a year left to mentor Iraqi airmen, U.S. advisers in Iraq are focusing their efforts on ensuring their Iraqi counterparts have the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed after the scheduled transition.

Currently, a new training curriculum is being developed by Iraq Training Advisory Mission-Air officials to combine Iraqi air force air traffic control and airfield management specialties.

Tech. Sgt. Shanita Brown, an ITAM-Air airfield management advisor, is working to merge two career fields that typically operate separately, but depend on each other to ensure safe operating conditions at airfields worldwide.

"My role is to incorporate airfield management into the Iraqi air traffic control training," Sergeant Brown said. "In our military, we have two separate career fields, but the Iraqi air force is combining those jobs."

Air traffic controllers typically manage aircraft movements during flight in 50,000 square miles of air space. They are also responsible for the safe movement of aircraft while they are on the ground. Additionally, they observe weather conditions and assist aircraft during periods of bad weather with the use of radar, instrument landing systems and various types of airfield lighting.

Airfield management personnel are responsible for the physical elements of an airfield, such as ensuring runway and taxiway lights are operational and there are no potholes in the concrete. They also run the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard program, which reduces wildlife hazards to aircraft.

Capt. Robert Hughes, an ITAM-Air senior air traffic control advisor, said Sergeant Brown has done an immense amount of work building a training program based on U.S. Air Force standards, but one that also uses the aspects of the airfield management program on which the Iraqis want to focus their efforts.

"Right now, all airfield management functions are done by (U.S.) Airmen or contractors," Captain Hughes said. "We're giving (the Iraqis) the ability to cover the airfield management safety aspect, how to report problems and how to fix them."

Sergeant Brown is slated to travel to various locations throughout Iraq that fall under the ITAM-Air purview, to teach the airfield management program. The final number of trainees has yet to be determined, but Sergeant Brown is planning to spend a month training approximately 20 Iraqi airmen at each location. 

Iraqi air force officials said they are also interested in sending many of their pilots through the course to ensure they fully grasp the significance of maintaining a fully operational airfield.

In addition to operating safely, Iraqi air force officials hope to have each of their airfields eventually garner certification from the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority. This certification would mean the airfields meet international standards for safety and reliability.

"Another important factor is that each class will have a class leader," Captain Hughes said. "Sergeant Brown will spend extra time with the class leader to help him develop an enduring training program so (the Iraqis) will be able to provide their own training in the future. The goal is for them to operate a safe airfield, and for them to be able to train the next generation on how to operate a safe airfield."