Cadets’ pride drives Air Force future

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christie Putz
  • Deployed from 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Pride in both service and mission are fundamental attributes of a successful military. Each servicemember must believe in what they are doing and be proud to be a part of it.

The Iraqi Air Force Officer Course cadets at the Iraqi Military Academy
Rustamiyah are already teeming with pride, only weeks into their training.

With blue epaulets on the shoulders of their uniforms, the small group of selected Air Force cadets stands out from their former classmates, who are continuing their training for the Iraqi Army.

One of the Air Force cadets, who wished his name not be used for security purposes, said the other cadets are jealous that they are going to be Air Force officers, but that it's more of a friendly rivalry than anything. "We have spent the last eight months with them, so we are all friends and brothers," he said.

But there is plenty of which to be jealous. This group of 41 cadets was hand selected as the best of their class and chosen to become a part of the world's newest air force.

With less than 1,000 people in the entire Iraqi Air Force, this class represents roughly five percent of the current force, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Dale Kolomaznik, former AFOC chief and Coalition advisor.

During a commander's call, the major put the significance of this event into perspective for the students. "Leaders of the U.S. Air Force are famous - everybody knows their names," he said. "Buildings are named after them, we go to classes to learn about them, and their pictures are everywhere."

"That's you," he said, turning to the class. When future Iraqi airmen study about the history of their service, they are going to be learning about what the cadets of this generation did for their country.

"You are making history right now," he added.

Founded on April 22, 1931, the Iraqi Air Force initially consisted of five pilots and 32 aircraft mechanics.

On the brink of the U.S. invasion in 2003, Saddam Hussein ordered the majority of his fighter aircraft be disassembled or buried, dissolving what little assets were left after the first Gulf War. Later that year, the Iraqi Air Force then officially disbanded with the rest of the nation's military services.

In 2004, the Coalition Air Force Transition Team was established with a goal to "build a credible air force in Iraq with a solid foundation for future growth." Their main avenue of accomplishing this is through advising and training.

The U.S. Air Force advisors at IMAR are teaching their cadets the basics of being part of an elite air force.

"We teach classroom lessons in four main categories: indoctrination, air power, leadership and followership," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Charon, AFOC chief. Additionally, application activities are added to help reiterate concepts taught in the classroom.

After their graduation from the course, cadets are commissioned with the rank of second lieutenant and go on to specialty training for their selected career field.

During a poll of the class, the majority of students expressed their interest in becoming pilots for the Iraqi Air Force. A few said they wanted to be doctors or other technicians. One student's answer, however, stood out from the rest.

"I want to be a leader," he said.

"You have a great responsibility to lead," said Kolomaznik, addressing all of the future officers in the room. "And in order to be a good leader, you need to take every chance to learn."

The cadets are feeling the weight of that responsibility.

"We wake up at six in the morning and go back to the barracks at six at night," said one of the students. "It's hard. There's very little time for rest."

Their four months with the Air Force Officer Course can be intense. But their sense of pride in what they do keeps them returning to class each day, a task that takes not only perseverance but also courage.

"All men who take honor in serving their country serve honorably," said Kolomaznik. "Except when I'm serving my country in the United States, nobody is threatening my life."

He added, "Because of that, I have a lot of respect for all of you."