Iraqi air force advance echelon team arrives

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tong Duong
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The Iraqi air force is one step closer to taking ownership of Joint Base Balad. A trio of officers and 11 enlisted airmen arrived May 15 to in-process here.

The group is part of the advance echelon team of 60 Iraqi airmen projected to arrive.

"It's truly a significant day for the Iraqi air force," said Maj. Clay Bartels, the 321st Expeditionary Mission Support Advisory Group's Base Transition Team chief. "It marks the beginning of their ability to integrate with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and to the critical features that will transfer the base to Iraqi air force control at end of mission."

The torch team, which arrived in early March, created a full-time Iraqi air force presence on JB Balad. The arrival of the advance team will set the foundation for their main bodies, Major Bartels said.

As part of the partnership between the U.S. Air Force and the Iraqi air force, there are tremendous amounts of materials and logistics needed help to further the Iraqi cause, she added.

By working through the Foreign Excess Personnel Property and United States Equipment Transfer to Iraq process, Staff Sgt. Attral Hairston, the 321st EAMSG logistics adviser, has been advising his Iraqi air force counterpart on equipment and supply requirements.

"We have acquired more than 1,600 FEPP approved items to support the Iraqi air force," Sergeant Hairston said.

The Sergeant Hairston is focused on three areas of equipment:

-- Basic life support items such as bedroom furniture, linens, dining facility equipments, portable toilets, a portable incinerator and transportation
-- Operational items such as office furniture, generators, tools and storage for smalls arms
-- Supplies and "self help" materials such as heating, ventilation and cooling parts, plumbing, electrical, scrap metal and wood

"The equipment will set them up for success, because if they had to procure all the items on their own, it would put a severe strain on an already limited Iraqi air force budget," Sergeant Hairston said.

The size of the base and its facilities is important to the future of the Iraqi air force.

"For Iraq, it was their premier fighter location prior to 2003," Major Bartels said. "It has a tremendous amount of facilities, infrastructures and the ability to base fighter aircraft, which would be essential to Iraqi air sovereignty in the future."