Story by Capt. Justin Kelly
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Soldiers from the 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment recently had the opportunity to greatly affect the future of Iraqi armed reconnaissance and the greater aviation community.
The 6-17th CAV is a scout reconnaissance helicopter squadron from Fort Wainwright, Alaska. The unit’s fast-flying OH-58 Kiowa helicopters have been patrolling the skies of Iraq for much of 2011 in support of Operation New Dawn.
During the week of 17 October, the squadron conducted training with pilots and ground support personnel from the Iraqi Army’s 21st Helicopter Squadron. The training included topics ranging from air-ground integration to rocket loading and safe armament procedures.
This training is expected to better prepare the 21st Squadron for the future as the unit nears full readiness to assume the 6-17’s mission in Iraq. Currently, the mission of the 21st Squadron is training. However, as the drawdown of American forces continues, the Iraqi unit will soon be responsible for armed reconnaissance flown today by U.S. Air Cavalry assets.
The Iraqi unit is currently using the Bell T-407 training helicopter to train more than 30 pilots. The Iraqi government has purchased 27 AR-407 helicopters armed with 2.75-inch rockets and M3P .50 caliber machine guns for the Squadron’s use.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jason Ganitano and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dan Hill serve as liaisons and interact daily with Iraqi personnel from the 21st Squadron. They asked the 6-17 CAV Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Michael C. McCurry, for assistance, in the belief that the American Air Cavalry Squadron would make a lasting impression on the newly formed Iraqi unit, they said.
“The Iraqis look at Kiowas flying by and wish they could fly them,” Hill said. The Kiowa’s accomplishments and impact on local security over the years in the region have been enormous and the Iraqi Army holds the community in high regard, he added.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Todd Mitchell, squadron standardization pilot for the 6-17 CAV, presented some of the training classes to the Iraqis of the 21st Squadron. “I am excited to be able to assist the Iraqi Army in taking the next step in their future,” Mitchell said.
Armament personnel led by Staff Sgt. Jamey Hermanns instructed ground personnel in handling and loading procedures for the M3P machine gun and aerial rockets. Hermanns stated, “I hope some of the techniques and procedures we taught will assist them as they develop their own standard operating procedures.”
“The training and partnership that we fostered here will have a lasting impact on the Iraqi military and the country of Iraq. Even more than teaching these brave Iraqis techniques and procedures, we have established lasting relationships and a mutual respect that will have a more permanent and strategic impact,” McCurry said.
The 6-17 Cavalry Regiment will depart Iraq by the end of the year in accordance with the security agreement of 2008.