News: Iraqi weapon loaders ready to lead
KIRKUK REGIONAL AIR BASE, Iraq -- Three Iraqi airmen recently achieved a significant accomplishment contributing to the Iraqi air force increasingly becoming a self reliant service.
The airmen, assigned to Iraqi air force squadron 3 here, became the first Iraqi weapons loaders certified as a lead weapons crew.
"As a lead weapons crew, they are not only qualified to load weapons, but now they can train and evaluate their fellow Iraqi service members to load weapons as well," said Tech. Sgt. Shawn Mullins, 521st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron weapons advisor.
Mullins and Staff Sergeants' Eric Hunt and Phillip Ball, all 521st AEAS weapons advisors, have spent the last few months training the Iraqi airmen and shadowing them to answer their questions ensuring they had a good understanding of the training.
"These guys have been great. Everybody is really sharp," said Sergeant Ball. "Working with these guys, especially getting them brought up as a lead crew and teaching them has been a real pleasure."
Hunt added the Iraqi airmen were dedicated and eager to learn about each step in the weapons loading process.
"They would start with safety briefs, aircraft safety checks, function checks, and launcher and missile inspections," explained Hunt. "Next, they would practice loading and latching the 100 pound missile into place and the last step is a walk around and inspection referred to as a weapons post load."
As the students progressed through their training with proficiency, the three advisors felt comfortable stepping back and observing with little to no assistance.
Eager to test their ability to perform the tasks they had spent a year mastering, the students challenged their instructors to a weapons loading competition.
Mullins said the objective was to determine who could load two dummy Hellfire missiles onto the wings of an Iraqi air force AC-208B Caravan the fastest, the safest and without any mistakes.
The students won the competition by completing a perfect load in record-setting time. Besting an average load time of 30 to 40 minutes, they executed a textbook load in 17 minutes and 15 seconds.
"It was the fastest load that had been done flawlessly to date," Sergeant Mullins said. "Our load was a minute faster but we had a mistake in there so they still hold the record for the fastest time."
Once the American team called time, their Iraqi competitors now trained to critically observe and evaluate loads, quickly identified a mistake.
"I had a set of circuit breakers that needed to be pushed in at the end of the load," Mullins said.
"We were happy we could win over our teachers," said Warrant Officer 1 Ziyad Asehaim, Iraqi air force weapons load crew member and certifier. "We liked the competition and wanted to compare abilities."
In recognition for their great accomplishments, Maj. Gen. Robert Kane, 321st Air Expeditionary Wing commander, presented the airmen their certifications in a ceremony attended by their fellow Iraqis and U.S. advisors.
Date Posted:08.19.2009 10:10
Location:KIRKUK REGIONAL AIR BASE, IQ
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