By Sgt. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. PAOJune 30, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Hold the sensor steady, don't shake, try to move at a constant, steady pace, make sure to watch the screen, look for abnormalities ... oh, and remember to breathe.
Non-destructive inspections are tedious.
But that doesn't stop the Iraqi air force from learning the in-depth aspects of their trade from Army and Air Force instructors.
Soldiers from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division-Baghdad, have teamed up with Airmen from the Coalition Air Force Training Team, 721st Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron, to teach these intricacies of aviation maintenance to the Iraqi air force.
Non-destructive inspections, or NDI's, are a maintenance procedure that allows the repairers to inspect the internal components of a part without taking it apart, said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Williams, of Natalia, Texas, the power train squad leader, B Company, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st ACB.
"We run NDI's on pretty much any aircraft components from all of the three airframes - Chinooks, Black Hawks and Apaches," said Williams.
Traditionally it has been the Air Force teaching the Iraqi air force how to perform aviation maintenance, but lately it has been difficult to get the necessary hands-on training for them, said Tech. Sgt. Andrea Walton, an NDI air advisor for the 721st AEAS.
"The Army came into play because, unfortunately, there aren't that many NDI jobs on the actual aircraft," said Walton. "So in order to get these guys the practical experience I came over to the Army and asked if we could practice NDI on their aircraft parts so these gentlemen would get the practical experience of NDI."
And practical experience is just what the Iraqi air force inspectors need due to the varying aspects of the inspection process.
"With NDI, it's so theory-based that you can explain it, but until they actually do it, it doesn't really register," said Walton.
The training is benefiting everyone involved. While the Iraqis are learning, they're also working, said Williams.
The Iraqis are actually closing out NDI work orders which means the power train repairers of 615th ASB are able to focus on other work orders and projects, said Williams.
Walton is benefiting from the training along with her Iraqi counterparts, she said.
"I've only been in country for three weeks. This is the first time I've actually had to train host nation personnel," said Walton. "I'm finding it a very interesting learning experience because of the language barrier."
But that barrier is not enough to stop Walton or her students from learning, she said.
Along with the multi-national training, Walton has found that working with the Army and their equipment has been a training experience as well.
The difference in the way that the Army works - with new equipment and different procedures -helps to broaden her already expansive knowledge base on NDI, she said.
With the practical experience the Iraqis gain from Walton and the Soldiers from 615th ASB, they'll be able to advance their careers faster and become more independent, said Walton.
" ... the Army is going to help us out tremendously by being over here because I can get these guys upgraded and then they can start doing NDI maintenance on their own," she said.
This was not the first visit by Walton and her students, nor will it be the last. Walton plans to keep up the partnership with 615th ASB so that her students will get the experience they need to become better aircraft inspectors.