News: Iraqi Air Force rides with Air Cavalry on joint air assault
Story by Sgt. Alun Thomas
TAJI, Iraq — As the Iraqi military continues its ascent to take control of their nation's defense and the war on terror, the ongoing joint training between themselves and the U.S. Army is more critical than ever.
Helping train the Iraqi air force is one of these crucial developments and assisting them in their progress in taking control of their skies is the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade at Camp Taji, who are using training and real combat missions to help provide hands-on experience to the Iraqis.
Obtaining a front row seat in a CH-47F Chinook helicopter to see one of these events was Lt. Col. Jassim Mohammed, Squadron 15, IAF, Al Taji airbase, who was invited by Lt.Col. Ralph Litscher, from Half Moon Bay, Calif., commander, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division — Baghdad, to observe a daytime air assault, July 20, between the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division and the Iraqi army.
Just as U.S. ground forces are trying to integrate Iraqi forces into their missions, the aviation side is trying to do the same, Litscher said, which is why Mohammed was invited to observe the air assault.
"We brought him in to show how we do air assault planning and execution with our ground forces and their ground forces," Litscher said. "It will better help them integrate with their ground forces so we don't teach their air force one thing and their ground forces the other."
Litscher said the two components should be synchronized and be able to work with each other without difficulty, which he hoped Mohammed would observe and work with in the future.
"One of the end goals we have before we leave here is to do an air assault where it's our aircraft with their aircraft and our ground forces with their ground forces," Litscher said. "We want a true joint operation so when we leave here they'll be able to execute to the same standard we do."
Litscher said it was a good opportunity for Mohammed to learn how the 1st ACB plans its operations.
"We want him to learn our planning techniques and how we do our briefings and it's obviously a bit different from the way they do it," Litscher said. "They [IAF] are good, very experienced pilots and we have a lot we can learn from them."
The 1st ACB will be able to bring their own processes to the Iraqi's and help them think in different ways, Litscher said.
"I think we can bring something with a different planning twist," Litscher said. "It's truly a partnership where we can both learn from each other."
Although the air assault itself was hampered by poor weather, Litscher said a plan had been made a day earlier in the event of weather deteriorating, which shows how key planning is.
"As we go through the planning and briefing this shows why we do it, because we briefed about it yesterday," Litscher said. "It was executed flawlessly and we are still on the exact TOT [time of travel] we had planned for."
Mohammed said it was an honor for him to be able to fly with 2-227th on a Chinook as they picked up and dropped off the air assault squads to perform their mission.
"I am here to see how they [the 1st ACB] box the Soldiers in the helicopter and take them to their point on the ground," Mohammed said. "In the future I can use this in case we have trouble of our own. We will be ready."
The Iraqi air force will be able to competently defend their airways once they are left to their own devices, Mohammed said, with the help from the 1st ACB benefiting them greatly.
"They [1st ACB] have helped us with many things," Mohammed said. "We are not at 100 percent right now, maybe 75, but we are learning everything we can."
It was Mohammed's first trip on a Chinook and being able to sit with the pilots gave him a close and detailed view of the aircrafts systems, he said.
"I checked all the instruments and indicators and am trying to understand where everything is," Mohammed said.
Litscher said he hoped for future interaction with Mohammed.
"I look forward to working with him more in the future and the rest of the 15th Squadron and the whole Iraqi air force wing that's here," he said.