CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - The Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) College raised its flag signaling its return to Tikrit at a multi-event ceremony on Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, Dec. 16.

The arrival of the IqAF College was punctuated by the arrival of the T-6 training aircraft, a groundbreaking for the new air traffic control tower and a flag-raising ceremony in front of the dormitories that will house cadets as they begin the new three-year curriculum.

Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi, the Minister of Defense for Iraq, and the Iraqi Air Force commander spoke to the crowded mass of cadets, pilots, Iraqi press and Soldiers as the multi-event ceremony unfolded on COB Speicher. Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, commander, Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I), also attended the ceremony, and spoke of the necessary elements to have a successful air force academy.

"You must have a system for air traffic control, you must have aircraft capable of defending your territory and, of course, you must have pilots to fly these aircraft. Today marks a milestone in all three of these areas."

The MNSTC-I commander spoke on the importance of the new air traffic control tower that will be constructed and the role the T-6 training aircraft will play in the IqAF College's future curriculum.

"The control tower that will be dedicated later today will allow the safety and proper control of the air space during training," said Lt. Gen. Barbero. "The T-6 aircraft that we are welcoming here today are advanced trainers. They will serve as stepping stones to advanced jet training and eventually a multi-role fighter capability."

The IqAF College will utilize 15 T-6 advanced trainers provided through a $210 million joint U.S.-Iraqi venture. The first eight aircraft, purchased by the Government of Iraq, will arrive at the college by the end of January. The other seven aircraft, purchased by the U.S., will arrive at the college by December, with training and maintenance provided through 2012.

The construction of the nine-story air traffic control tower is expected to be complete in the latter half of 2010 and will provide a critical link for pilots and will include an on-site controller simulator. It will also provide the critical airspace control for its pilot training environment, according to MNSTC-I.

"This brings me to the third, and perhaps, most important component of the Air Force - the pilots," said Lt. Gen. Barbero. "It takes skill and courage to master the skills needed to fly, especially to face an enemy intent on shooting you down. It takes an extraordinary person to be an Air Force pilot. You must have courage, discipline and years of dedicated training. You must uphold the highest standards of personal and professional conduct to make it through the rigorous training process."

With final words of confidence in the establishment of the IqAF College in Tikrit and the advanced skills and abilities the cadets will develop, Lt. Gen. Barbero spoke of the safety and stability the people of Iraq will continue to experience with full faith in their security forces.

"Once enough pilots are trained and advanced aircraft are added to the growing Iraqi elite, the Iraqi Air Force will be able to control the air space over this region," he said. "In the not too distant future, the people of Iraq will be able to look up and know that their countrymen are keeping them safe and defending their skies."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16