By Mr. Michael Scheck (USAREC)November 15, 2009
Taji Air Base, Iraq - The Iraqi Air Force has been in a rebuilding mode since the fall of Saddam Hussein. At its peak, Iraqi airpower boasted more than 950 aircraft. Millions of dollars of military aircraft were destroyed, abandoned or fell into disrepair following the war.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is involved in a number of military reconstruction projects in Iraq designed to revitalize the Iraqi Air Force. Two projects recently completed were the Aerospace Equipment Maintenance Facility and 1,200-bed barracks complex at Taji Air Base.
At a formal ribbon cutting Nov. 4 marking the completion of the two projects, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Steve LaCasse, Officer in Charge of the USACE Baghdad Area Office, stressed that work is ongoing to strengthen the Iraqi Air Force.
"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers looks forward to continuing this partnership as we construct more facilities at Taji, including a helicopter hanger and air traffic control tower that continue to improve the capability of the Iraqi Air Force," LaCasse said.
Brig. Gen. Nadhim Lafta, commander of the Taji Air Base, says the projects show the commitment of the United States to support our Iraqi armed forces.
"These two projects demonstrate that the United States does care about the Iraqi Air Force, the Iraqi people and its mission to defeat terrorism," Lafta said.
Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert C. Kane, commanding general of the Coalition Air Force Transition Team in Baghdad, told the special guests at the ribbon cutting that the building is a representation of the mechanics that will be working on the aircraft and the flight crews that fly the helicopters.
"It's not the building or what it will look like in two to three years, it's the airmen as we look to the future," Kane said. "The aviation schools here at Taji emphasize that commitment [to the Iraqi Air Force] and this is where we need to be focused."
Aviation maintenance equipment is the backbone of military aviation. It includes the ground power units that provide electrical power to aircraft while on the ground, the maintenance stands, tow-trailers and tow bars used to move aircraft.
The 750-square-meter ground maintenance facility provides a modern maintenance shop for crews to both repair and store vital flight line aviation equipment. The new facility contains a drive through main bay, various maintenance shop spaces, storage rooms and administrative office space.
The $5.5 million barracks project involved the construction of four dorms to accommodate 1,200 Iraqi Air Force members stationed at Taji. The dorms house airmen in two, three and four person rooms and include latrine facilities and a laundry room.
The Iraqi owned Almco Company served as the general contractor for both projects. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region District in Iraq has completed thousands of reconstruction projects in partnership with the U.S. government and the government of Iraq.