TIKRIT – Following more than a year of preparation, Iraqi cadets will soon begin training here on Contingency Operating Base Speicher, the first to attend the recently-reopened Iraqi Air Force Academy since it closed in 2003.
“The Iraqi Air Force [Academy] will gradually increase its footprint,” said U.S. Air Force Col. David Blanks, the Expeditionary Mission Support Advisory Group commander. “The Iraqi Air Force has approximately 5,000 airmen [officer and enlisted] today. That number is projected to grow to nearly 12,000 by the end of 2012.”
These cadets are part of a time-honored tradition that dates back to April 22, 1931, when five Iraqi pilots completed their pilot training in Britain. Iraq has since celebrated that event as the establishment date of the IqAF.
However, Iraq’s aviators continued to complete their training abroad until the 1970s, when the IqAF academy was built here. The academy commissioned pilots until the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In 2007, the IqAF began molding aviators at the Iraqi Military Academy in Ar Rustimiyah.
The cadets will devote the next three years to earning a commission in the IqAF. The curriculum consists of a comprehensive study of general academics, leadership development and flight training on Iraqi-owned aircraft. English is a major part of the curriculum, since it is the mandated international language of aviation set forth by the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The students will also learn how to be instructors so they may teach others how to fly fighter jets and protect Iraq’s borders.
“We have a goal and end state to reach,” said Staff Brig. Gen. Ali Hasan, the commander of the IqAF and dean of the school. “My job is to produce confident pilots to protect our international borders. Despite the obstacles or challenges we will traverse.
“We are not without challenges. That does not mean we stop training,” Ali continued. “My goal is to produce the maximum number of pilots from each class. The academy is here to provide that training for the cadets.”