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NEWS | Feb. 15, 2008

Lackland sergeants help build Iraqi air force

By Lilly Flores-Janecek 37th Training Wing Public Affairs Office

Two Team Lackland military training instructors returned home recently after graduating the first class of 120 warrant officers for the Iraqi air force.

Since deploying in August, the MTIs from the 324th Training Squadron were tasked with helping rebuild and train the Iraqi air force.

"There is no doubt we sent the right two Airmen, Tech. Sgt. (William) Hamrick and Staff Sgt. (Benny) Fields, to mold and shape Iraqi airmen, said Maj. Danny Davis, 324th TRS commander.

The warrant officer course and a basic military training course started last March by Team Lackland MTIs for the Iraqi Air Force Training School is part of the Coalition Air Force Transition Team or CAFTT.

"What we did over there was history in the making," said Sergeant Hamrick. "A lot of people don't understand what CAFTT is and they don't understand the mission to build a viable Iraqi air force that can defend its own borders."

According to Sergeant Hamrick the mission is being accomplished by teaching the Iraqi airmen the same core values taught to Airmen here at Lackland.

"It was tough because no one has ever done this before," said Sergeant Fields. "But, it was also rewarding because we were doing something historic."

Sergeant Fields said the experience helped him grow professionally and personally.

"I have better patience now because of them. You must be more patient with the guys you are training there because of the cultural differences," said Sergeant Fields.

Both MTIs were clearly impressed with the motivation and drive the Iraqi airmen displayed despite their poor living conditions and irregular military payment.

"Initially there were rumblings that such and such doesn't like Americans, but to watch those kids change and come to trust us was pretty cool. And their patriotism for their own country was amazing," said Sergeant Hamrick.

According to Major Davis, his MTIs exceeded the mission requirements and he described their performance as indicative of the versatility of MTIs to adapt to any environment.

"Throughout their deployment, I told both of them, on a regular basis, that they can be justifiably proud of their accomplishments and that someday the people of Iraq will come to understand the role that these MTIs and American armed forces played in rebuilding their country into a democratic nation-state," said Major Davis.