Friday, April 13, 2007

Iraqis fly first helicopter training sortie

Pilot set to qualify for combat flight Thursday By Erik Holmes - Staff writerPosted : Wednesday Apr 11, 2007 11:25:57 EDT TAJI, Iraq — The Iraqi air force on Tuesday flew its first helicopter training sortie outside Taji Air Base, and an Iraqi helicopter pilot Thursday is set to become the first qualified to fly in combat. The training sortie, flown by two Huey II helicopters from the Iraqi air force’s 2nd Squadron, is a landmark for the fledgling air force, which has been training with a team of about 100 American advisors. It included live-fire weapons training with Russian machine guns mounted on the aircraft. The 2nd Squadron is slated to begin flying combat missions in early May, said Capt. Shane Werley, the chief American adviser to the squadron.“The significance is that we’re going to be taking missions from the [Army’s] 1st Cavalry [Division at Taji],” Werley said. “The bottom line is we’re getting these guys back in the fight.”The American advisers are from the Coalition Air Force Transition Team, which has around 250 personnel — almost all U.S. Air Force — helping train and rebuild the Iraqi air force. Taji Air Base is an Iraqi installation inside the perimeter of Camp Taji, the largest American helicopter base in Iraq. Taji is about 15 miles north of Baghdad.

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