One of the more interesting experiences I had on my last rotation in Iraq was working with the Iraqi Air Force. Through a complicated series of events we managed to set up a training mission with Iraqi pilots, flying the older US-made Huey helicopters, followed by an actual combat operation.
During the training mission, I was the only American on the aircraft…a hair raising experience to say the least. As it turned out the pilot knew his stuff and my fears were unfounded. He had been flying for decades, all the way back to the Iran-Iraq war where he had been a fighter pilot. In this picture we (a small group of US Special Forces troops with a Iraqi SWAT contingent) are inbound to our objective area.
A picture I took, looking down, as we sped a hundred feet or so above the desert.
2 responses to “The Iraqi Air Force”
Nice pix. Kinda’ strange for a jet jock to transfer to rotary wing. At least it would be in our armed forces.
That senior pilot was a character. He had a big beer belly and chain smoked every time he was out of the cockpit. He’d flown in the war, flew choppers for Saddam, and then ended up in the new Iraqi Air Force. He was telling me that he liked to fly solo missions because he worried about his flight crew. He also explained to me that he prefers it that way because when you have lots of support elements you get professionally lazy by relying on other people. I said something like, “Yeah, you start to let your guard down” and he responded, “YES! EXACTLY! You know what I mean!”
He also wanted to hold hands with the American pilot he was partnered with. It’s a common Iraqi costume that indicates friendship, nothing homo about it, but it still made the US pilot uncomfortable as hell!!!