ALI BASE, Iraq: The Iraqi air force commander and the director of the Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission-Air Force visited the 407th Air Expeditionary Group Sept. 24 at Ali Base to conduct a site survey of the airfield and facilities, and to speak with members of the media from the local city of An Nasiriyah about the future of the base.
This was the first joint visit by Staff Lt. Gen. Anwar Hamad Amen Ahmed, the Iraqi air force commander, and Maj. Gen. Robert C. Kane, the ITAM-AF director, and marked a significant step in providing the Iraqi air force with a better understanding of what assets will be available to support them here during the transition and drawdown of forces.
Though the exact mission set at Ali Base for Iraqi and coalition forces after the transition is undecided, General Anwar pointed out that the effort wouldn’t take place single-handedly.
“We are working together to ensure the base is transferred smoothly to the Iraqi air force according to the security agreement,” he said. “We have tremendous support from the (Iraqi) prime minister, the minister of defense, and the U.S. Air Force.”
The responsibility of advising and supporting the Iraqi Air Force during this pivotal transition is the mission of the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air Force, which is a part of Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq.
“Our job is to develop the foundational capability of a credible and enduring air force for the Iraqi people,” General Kane said. “It really is the whole spectrum of Air Force capabilities. We provide our expertise to the Iraqi air force as they try to implement their plans in building the Air Force they want.”
The ITAM-AF includes Airmen from a variety of career fields that work hand in hand with members of the Iraqi air force on flightlines, in back shops and in classrooms to advise their counterparts on air operations.
Additionally, the generals were provided an overview of local airfield operations and given the opportunity to see firsthand many of the ongoing construction projects across the base.
The first of several stops on the tour was at a new air traffic control tower facility being constructed adjacent to the old tower. When completed, the new tower will be roughly eight stories high and boast improved technology, which will only add to the safety and operability of the airfield. The project is estimated to be completed in January 2010 and will be the tallest structure in the surrounding Dhi Qar province.
Other major stops during the visit included a series of ramp expansion projects, which allow for the bed down of a variety of airframes on the airfield, and a walk around of preexisting hardened aircraft shelters which were constructed prior to 1985.
During interviews with media, General Anwar praised the U.S. Air Force for its efforts to upgrade and maintain the airfield. He especially thanked General Kane and Col. Glen Apgar, the 407th AEG commander, for allowing him the opportunity to see the facilities and construction projects on the base.
“I had visited the base before, but today we saw many new construction projects,” General Anwar said. “I want to send my thanks to the U.S. Air Force for their current and future support.”