CAMP TAJI, Iraq — U.S. aviation units during Operation Iraqi Freedom have been crucial in preventing attacks, on not just U.S. military forces, but also the Iraqi army and civilians.
As the U.S. gradually winds down its role in the ongoing conflict, the Iraqi air force must pick up where units like the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division — Baghdad, leave off and forge their own identity in maintaining control of the skies and the ground.
To get a closer look at the capabilities of the 1st ACB and their partnership with the IAF, Gen. Abud Qanbar Hashim al-Maliki, commanding general, Baghdad Operations Command, visited 1st ACB and IAF headquarters, Sept. 10, to view the progress of the IAF and the aircraft used to protect Soldiers from both nations.
Abud, accompanied on his visit by Maj. Gen. Daniel Bolger, from Aurora, Ill., commanding general, 1st Cav. Div. and MND — B, said he wanted to see the 1st ACB and IAF operations.
"On this visit I also wanted to see the level of cooperation between the Iraqi air force and the U.S. Air Force," Abud said. "What I saw shows vital coordination between both."
The amount of effort from the IAF and the 1st ACB to support Baghdad and the surrounding areas has also been impressive, Abud said.
"The partnership between both is important and I wanted to confirm that it is strong on this visit," Abud said. "The partnership indicates the level of the Iraqi air force and their performance on the joint missions with the Air Cav."
Abud said it is crucial for both sides to continue working alongside each other in order for the IAF to successfully continue the mission in the future.
"It was visible the coordination and help given to us from the American side today," Abud said. "To conduct the missions critical to BOC they have been helpful in building and supporting the Iraqi air force."
Abud toured a static display of both U.S. and Iraqi aircraft, including an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter of the 1st ACB and said he was impressed with the Apache.
"What I saw was excellent," Abud said in reference to the Apache. "I want to thank the crews and technicians who work on these choppers."
Bolger said the visit was important so Abud could learn more about the 1st ACB and their aerial assets, but also the IAF and their development.
"The goal for Gen. Abud is to learn what helicopter aviation can do for the fight in Baghdad and what he can do to better encourage the partnership in this operation," Bolger said.
Partnership is a key word at this stage of the war, Bolger said, which makes visits like this important.
"What we really want to know is what each side brings to the fight and what can each side to do help the other guys improve," Bolger said. "What we have here is a great hand in hand partnership. It's not just American-Iraqi, but American Air Force and Army working together."
"The ultimate goal is to get the Iraqi military as capable as possible with all their forces," he added.
Bolger said he is impressed with the progress being made by the Iraqi air force.
"When you consider that the Iraqi air force was pretty well destroyed in 2003 ... it takes a long time to train air crew and ground aviation capabilities," Bolger said. "Yet look at them now, they're flying alongside us and got their own aircraft and strengths."
"You can see as they work with our Apache's that their future will represent more and more capabilities at each point."