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Building a better tomorrow, one NCO at a time

Tech. Sgt. Rebecca McKeever discusses the Air Force core value of "Integrity First" with a group of junior Iraqi airmen during a NCO professional development course April 27, 2011. U.S. Airmen with the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air and 447th Air Expeditionary Group taught the course to help the Iraqi air force develop its NCOs into stronger leaders. Sergeant McKeever, originally from Winchester, Va., is deployed from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Sergeant McKeever is the 447th Expeditionary Medical Squadron NCO in charge. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Randy Redman)

Tech. Sgt. Rebecca McKeever discusses the Air Force core value of "Integrity First" with a group of junior Iraqi airmen during a NCO professional development course April 27, 2011. U.S. Airmen with the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air and 447th Air Expeditionary Group taught the course to help the Iraqi air force develop its NCOs into stronger leaders. Sergeant McKeever, originally from Winchester, Va., is deployed from Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. Sergeant McKeever is the 447th Expeditionary Medical Squadron NCO in charge. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Randy Redman)

Master Sgt. Daryl Baldosserleft (left) and Master Sgt. Christina Riegel listen as an Iraqi airman asks a question during a NCO professional development course April 27, 2011. Airmen with the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air and 447th Air Expeditionary Group taught the course to help the Iraqi air force develop its NCOs into stronger leaders. Sergeant Baldosser, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., is originally from Republic, Ohio. Sergeant Riegel, deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is originally from Greeley, Colo. Sergeant Baldosser is the 447th Expeditionary Communications Squadron Cyber Transport Systems section chief. Sergeant Riegel is the 447th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Traffic Management superintendent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Randy Redman)

Master Sgt. Daryl Baldosserleft (left) and Master Sgt. Christina Riegel listen as an Iraqi airman asks a question during a NCO professional development course April 27, 2011. Airmen with the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air and 447th Air Expeditionary Group taught the course to help the Iraqi air force develop its NCOs into stronger leaders. Sergeant Baldosser, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., is originally from Republic, Ohio. Sergeant Riegel, deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is originally from Greeley, Colo. Sergeant Baldosser is the 447th Expeditionary Communications Squadron Cyber Transport Systems section chief. Sergeant Riegel is the 447th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Traffic Management superintendent. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Randy Redman)

NEW AL MUTHANA AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNS) -- Airmen serving with the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission-Air and 447th Air Expeditionary Group are focused on building the foundation of the Iraqi air force. Equipment transfer and technical training are important, but a small group of NCOs are also teaching enlisted professional development as part of U.S. Air Force efforts to rebuild the Iraqi air force as a strong, regional air power partner.

A committee of about 15 people planned the course, which covered Iraqi air force core values, professionalism and training, said Master Sgt. Brian Carter, an ITAM-Air medical adviser.

"We had 51 students for each night," Sergeant Carter said. "The students were divided into three small groups based on rank... warrant officers, NCOs and airmen."

According to Sergeant Carter, the enlisted corps of the Iraqi air force is similar to the U.S. Air Force, but there are differences. For example, the Iraqi air force has many highly experienced enlisted airmen as well as new airmen on active duty. However, there are very few serving in mid-level enlisted positions.

"The senior NCOs, or warrant officers they call them, have been in (the air force) many years. Some had even served in the Iraqi army and served under Saddam's regime (during) Desert Shield and Desert Storm," Sergeant Carter said. "They face many challenges, such as training issues and lack of resources. However, they are not as empowered by their officers to solve these problems on their own as our senior NCOs would be."

Master Sgt. Daryl G. Baldosser, the 447th Expeditionary Communications Squadron Cyber Transport Systems section chief, volunteered his time as an instructor for the professional development course. Sergeant Baldosser, deployed from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., said he was impressed with the experience and knowledge the Iraqi senior NCOs exhibited.

"The first group we addressed was the senior NCOs," Sergeant Baldosser said. "We asked the question, 'What part of your training program needs the most help?' The Iraqi senior NCOs were very passionate with their responses. They cited issues like lack of training on the newer, digital aircraft platforms and obstacles like officers not being responsive to their training requests or needs. We tried to get them to focus on the items within their span of control."

Tech. Sgt. Rebecca McKeever, the 447th Expeditionary Medical Squadron NCO in charge, also volunteered to teach.

Sergeant McKeever taught during the second night of the course and focused on the four Iraqi air force core values, which are: learn English, integrity, loyalty to country and military discipline.

"I volunteered to teach the class so I could find out how the enlisted members of the Iraqi air force compare to our enlisted members," Sergeant McKeever said. "I also wanted to meet the airmen we are here to help develop and grow into an independent force."

Master Sgt. Christina Riegel, the 447th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Traffic Management superintendent, said she was amazed at how much the enlisted corps of the U.S. Air Force and Iraqi air force has in common.

"We are the same. Both would like to make improvements to their processes, and sometimes we encounter the same challenges in making those improvements," Sergeant Riegel said.
The communication was a two-way process. The Iraqi NCOs who participated in the training said they enjoyed the opportunity and felt the small-group discussion method of instruction was highly effective. Several also mentioned they felt the long-term benefit of the training would build a strong foundation for the Iraqi air force.

A secondary goal for this training was to give the Iraqis a chance to interact with Americans and practice their English language skills.

"A lot of the aviation training and operations require English, and understanding the language is crucial to building their capabilities as an air force," Sergeant Carter said.

Sergeant McKeever said everyone here should seize opportunities to work with the Iraqi air force.

"They have an energy and willingness to learn that is refreshing to see," Sergeant McKeever said. "They seem to enjoy talking to the U.S. Airmen and working on their English skills the most. It was a great experience and memory that I will enjoy reminiscing about for years to come."
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