Advisers open metals technology, sheet metal shops Published May 31, 2011 By Staff Sgt. Marcus Smith 721st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron CAMP TAJI, Iraq (AFNS) -- Advisers from the 721st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron held an inauguration ceremony here to commemorate the opening of a metals technology and sheet metal shop in Iraq's newest and largest maintenance hangar. The ceremony was held to honor the effort and dedication it took to build two fully functional maintenance shops to U.S. safety standards after four years of hard work and patience. "This accomplishment significantly advances the Iraqi Army Aviation Command's organic structural-repair capability to enhance overall fleet readiness," said Maj. Claudio Covacci, the 721st AEAS's maintenance officer who leads a team of maintenance advisers. The back shops provide both first and second-level repair capability for Mi-171E, UH-1 Iriquois, T-407 and EC-635 aircraft. "Over the last several years, the Iraqi Army Aviation Command sheet metal and machine shop technicians have been incrementally growing to maturity," Major Covacci said. "The newly acquired repair facilities provide a state-of-the-art capability that builds trust and confidence in Iraqi flying operations." Currently, all periodic inspection and maintenance actions are accomplished by Iraqi Army Aviation Command personnel supervised by civilian contractor personnel officials said. However, the goal is to enable Iraqi technicians to complete all tasks independently to allow for a smooth U.S. drawdown. Although contractors are primarily responsible for all shop functions, Major Covacci and Tech. Sgt. Derrick Hatcher, an ITAM-Air sheet metal expert and adviser, brought the project to fruition. Sergeant Hatcher, deployed from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., was pivotal to completing the project just three months after taking on the task. As an Airman assigned to the 721st AEAS, Sergeant Hatcher trains his Iraqi Army Aviation Command partners to perform inspections, manufacture, and repair machined components for Russian Mi-171E and U.S. T-407 helicopters. The Iraqi wing commander here praised his American advisers for preparing his troops to continue the mission as U.S. forces hand over responsibilities to their Iraqi partners. "We have been training the Iraqis on back-shop maintenance and general safety practices," Sergeant Hatcher said. "As a result, we have given the Iraqis the tools and training needed to fully function as a professional maintenance organization capable of intermediate-level repair."