I guess I should start by letting you know a little about me; I just retired last year from a career of 26 six years in the military; my last assignment being at NASNI in Coronado. Throughout my last 10 years of service, I was assigned, off and on, to train and evaluate operational pilots that conducted missions to help secure our borders and to assist various organizations in law enforcement. I did this exclusively the last two years from NASNI. While living on Coronado, I fell in love with the entire atmosphere, the people, the activities, the location and the environment, so needless to say that when I left, Coronado was always in the back of my mind. That’s how I came to be a member of eCoronado.com; while checking the web for the latest news on Coronado, I found a link to the web site. Once there, I could see the latest updates on the news, events and people living and enjoying the benefits of the island. It helps make me feel connected while being so far away. It’s the next best thing to being there.
When I retired, I immediately took a position on a military contract in Iraq; I deployed when I left the Island and have been here since. My position here is to qualify Iraqi Air Force pilots to fly helicopters, specifically our helicopters from the US. We have been tasked to help rebuild the Iraqi Air Force so they can provide security and defense for their country independent of outside support. Since my arrival last year, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and participate in some of the monumental changes in what this country is experiencing, and I must say, that I hope all the efforts of our dedicated soldiers, sailors, airmen and contractors bear fruit in the future of this country. I have to add also that I am honored to be serving alongside our wonderful and professional military people from all branches of service.
What we have been tasked to do is to work hand in hand with the US Air Force, Army and of course the Iraqi military leadership to provide the training, evaluation and fielding of Iraqi pilots into the newly reorganized Iraqi Air Force. The concept is that we train ourselves out a job by qualifying enough pilots and train enough Iraqi Instructor Pilots (IP’s) that we begin to phase out as we are replaced by Iraqi IP’s. As you can imagine, however, this is not a short term project but rather a program that will take time.
I was one of the first to arrive on this project; what we found was that the infrastructure had been established but the tools were not yet in place to open up “shop”. We started without classrooms, offices, maintenance facilities or any of the things we would take for granted in the US. We had to establish relationships with imbedded US military units already established here and with authorized local Iraqi merchants to acquire the tools needed to set up a legitimate environment for flight training. The US Army supplied the aircraft and also the representatives that would oversee the establishment of the school; they were and are responsible to ensure that we are in compliance with the same standards that must be met within the US military and the Federal Aviation Administration (the governing aviation agency within the United States). We have been lucky to have very experienced military pilots as a part of that team. The initial estimates to get everything up and running were anywhere from 10 months to over a year; we managed to pull it all together in about four months and started our first class in January of this year. Luckily, most of us on this contract are retired military and are used to being self starters as well as accustomed to wearing many different hats at the same time. So when it came to activities other than flying, we accepted the challenges and went to work setting up the flight program. I have to admit that there were times where you had to laugh, watching retired senior military officer/pilots putting together desks, hanging video equipment, making signs and all that goes with putting together a school environment. Another important characteristic most of us brought from our military back ground was the importance of being a team player and helping where it was needed; no job to small or insignificant that we couldn’t pitch in to get it done. We have definitely had our growing pains but eleven months later, we will be graduating our first class this weekend. Throughout the last nine months of training, I’ve gotten to know the students, Sunni, Shiite and Kurds alike; they are young and in their early twenties and are curious like any other young people that I’ve known.
When I continue this blog, I will attempt to give those that are interested, a picture of what it was like to deploy here and adjust to this world. I would also like to share my impressions of the culture, people, traditions, history and of course the environment. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you back home.