By Sgt. Ry Norris, 135th MPAD, 3rd ID Public AffairsSeptember 9, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - It took more than a year to plan, but 157 Iraqi Air Force cadets arrived to Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Tikrit, Iraq, Sept. 1.
Class 76 will be the first cadets to go through the newly reopened Iraqi Air Force College, which closed in 2003.
"The Iraqi Air Force College 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 of the Iraqi Air Force.
However, Iraq's aviators continued to complete their training abroad until the 1970s, when the Iraqi Air Force College was built in Tikrit. The academy commissioned pilots until the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003.
In 2007, the academy resumed molding aviators at the Iraqi Military Academy in Ar Rustimiyah.
The cadets will devote the next three years continuing their military education to receive a commission in the Iraqi Air Force. 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 instructor themselves and teach others how to fly fighter jets and protect Iraq's borders.
"We have a goal and end state to reach," said taff Brig. Gen. Ali Hasan, the commander of the Iraqi Air Force and dean of the academy. "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," said Staff Brig. Gen. Ali. "My goal is to produce the maximum number of pilots from each class. The academy is here to provide that training for the cadets."