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Passing the torch



Ummmmm, hi, guys -- remember me?

Okay, I didn’t get whacked by a rocket, but I *did* get roped into some extra work. Y’see, I’m the only instructor here who can teach both starched-wing *and* fling-wing stuff, but when the starched-wing guys go on mujas, then I'm the *only* academics instructor, period, end of sentence. Ooops -- mujas is the Iraqi word for “vacation”. Or “leave”. Or “git outta Dodge.”

Anyhoo, the new flight student class (the fourth one) got here just as was leaving, and the two starched-wing guys went on mujas the day *before* I got back upcountry. Hence, I got tagged to cover their classes. Did I mention we’ve got four classes of Iraqi cadets here, now? Plus the Instructor Pilot candidates?

Visualize a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

However, today (okay, yesterday, by the time you read this), I got a break from teaching the new kids the mysterious ways in which airplanes manage to get into the air in 30-knot crosswinds.

Ta-daaaaaaa!




The First Class of the new Iraqi Air Force Flight School graduated today (yeah, yeah, yesterday -- whatever). Why call it Class 67? Simple – Class 66 was the last class to graduate from the *old* Flight School.

Seven years ago. In Tikrit.

Call it a concession to tradition.

And it really *is* a new Flight School. One thing the MSM was here covering in July and August – which you prolly didn’t read about – was the construction. The pic below only shows a small part of it:




Those buildings will be classrooms, student housing, cadre offices, simulator bays, maintenance workshops, computer labs – you name it. As soon as I get my sh*t together some spare time, I’ll take you on a guided Then-and-Now tour.

Back to the ceremony. The place was overrun with Distinguished Visitors -- Ministry of Defense, IqAF HQ, CAFTT (the Coalition Armed Forces Transition Team, formerly *Training* Team), and Iraqi media. Interesting ceremony, too – it started with both the Iraqi and US national anthems, and I got a mild case of the startles when the AK-armed Iraqi security guy standing next to me transitioned from the Iraqi-style “Present Arms” during his anthem to a flawless US-style when ours was played. The DVs spoke in Arabic, which I couldn’t follow very well, but there were translators aplenty sitting with the Coalition contingent. Which is where I *wasn’t* -- I'd moved to keep the new Baby Class company in the bleachers. One of the kids nudged me when a DV started getting passionate in his address, and was interrupted by a standing ovation:
“He is saying that for the first time in our history, we are not doing things for one man, but we are doing it for all the people of Iraq. He is saying the US has showed us how, and we must not forget when we thank God every day, we must also ask him to bless the US.”

Then came something that *could* have gone badly – the Junior Class is responsible for the school’s colors, and immediately before the Class 67 cadets received their diplomas and swords, the honor guard from Class 69 formally passed the colors to the honor guard from Class 70.

I watched them rehearse on Friday.

*grin*

They’d evidently practiced a *lot* Saturday night, and it showed.



I couldn’t get a clear shot of each graduate receiving his sword (too many folks milling around getting *their* pix), but I did get the post-grad shot. This is something else that’s changed – a few months ago, putting their pictures in a public forum would have been a death sentence for them or their families. Right after the ceremony, they were each interviewed for Iraqi TV.

Ask any of these three brand-new pilots if the Surge worked.



Yeah, that's Class 67. There are only three of them.

They volunteered when it was a tossup whether they’d even live to graduate.

But there are eight in Class 68.

Twelve in Class 69.

And twenty-four in Class 70.



It *is* a new beginning.

Oh, yeah – the DV speaker who got the ovation?



He went through my IMC crash-proofing course back in April.

I couldn't show you *his* picture then either...

 -- Bill

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45 Comments

Whee!  Comments are working.  Great story Bill.

I couldn’t get a clear shot of each graduate receiving his sword (too many folks milling around getting *their* pix), but I did get the post-grad shot. This is something else that’s changed – a few months ago, putting their pictures in a public forum would have been a death sentence for them or their families. Right after the ceremony, they were each interviewed for Iraqi TV.

Now *there* is an indicator of progress.
 
'Nother indicator is that I shaved my mustache.

Actually, it's an indicator of a *lack* of progress. I trim it to milspec and it *still* looks like a bore-brush for an M-1...
 
Great Job, Bill, to you and your students!
 
Congratulations to you, Bill, and to the new pilots. Thanks for all you're doing!
 
Congratulations!  Godd job baby.
 
That's awesome.... To see the numbers rise so quickly and dramatically from class 67 to 70 is just amazing.
Way to go, Sugarbuttons!
 
Bill,

  Congrats from this old airdale.  I hate to admit it, but I got a tad misty reading about how things have been going.  It's not only pride in what WE as a nation accomplished on their behalf, but what THEY have accomplished. Once you let the genie of Freedom out of his bottle, there is no way to stuff him back in. Those new pilots and their follow-ons realise this, and thay will never look back for solutions to problems, only forard, as freemen and citizens.

  Well done friend, Well done indeed!
 
*grin*

*grin*

*grin*

*lots of pride*

*grin*
 
Fantastic piece, Bill.  Thanks for sharing it with us.
 
Fantastic stuff, really aught to be on the news especially in Iraq of course, as I hope it is with the press there.  Three properly graduated and many more to come.  And you've been there helping them give Iraq the power and freedom it needs.  Really good point about having their faces shown.
 
Good job all around, guys!  And for the new graduates -- may your zippers never jam, may all your landings be planned, and may all the Jesus-nuts be thoroughly coated with Loc-Tite!
 
That's awesome, Bill!  You are doing a great job, and your students are lucky to have you :-)
 
And all the chics come out to comment on the post with a lot of very long zippers. 

congratulations to all.  May God grant them a long peace to practice their new found freedom and ways of the Jedi Master Bill!
 
Bill, who knew you looked like Sam Elliot?

Great job, and great story. I don't think I can tell you what a pleasure it has been having you as one of my "invisible internet friends."
 
I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who got misty while reading this.

What an incredible moment for these men and their country. They must be so proud! Please tell them how proud we are of them, too.

They are lucky to have you, Bill. Well done, and thank you.
 
He is a handsome de'il, isn't he? :p

I do believe it's the zipper. Well done, laddie. Well done.
 
I was also starting to wonder: What happened to the Opsec'd/Smudged IAF faces.  'Tis much better this way.

But Unkabill, Is that a Maryland Crab starched over with Old Bay Seasoning, festooning your right breast pocket?  I know that you are always trying to make yourself *er* tasty to the gentle gender, but believe me brother, there are other ways to achieve the same end result.
 
That is so awesome!
 
Well done to Bill, and his students, and the others who have made their success possible.

More news we won't see in the mainstream media.

 
Ummmm, John? I suggested that tag as a *joke*. Does kinda lend a bit of dignity to the place, though...

Thanks for your comments, guys -- wish I could've done a live cam of the ceremony for ya, but I *did* get some videos. You know what's coming...

Ummmm, one of the reasons I ditched the mustache was because of the "You look like Sam Elliot" comments from Warrior Princess, Fire Pixie, MRAP Gurl and Captain Zena.

*ahem*

All of whom are seriously married.
 
Boq -- Nice catch. The FOB is on Kirkuk Regional Air Base -- KRAB. Everything the Air Force owns is labeled "KRAB this" or "KRAB that", except for the MWR Center -- which was dubbed "the Clamtina" -- and the Ladies' Aerobics Classroom, which rejoices in the title "Karate Kat's KRAB Kick Klass."

I am developing an intense aversion to seafood...
 
Great news, and well deserved. Wish I were out there for the event.

 
Really...you have a mustache in that picture?
 
David -- Nope, no mustache. When I said I'd shaved it, that meant I'd shaved it *off*.  Took three disposable razors to do it, though...

Hey, Captain Tony! I'll send you some of the other pix!
 
Ok - serious comment.

This totally made me cry:
“He is saying that for the first time in our history, we are not doing things for one man, but we are doing it for all the people of Iraq. He is saying the US has showed us how, and we must not forget when we thank God every day, we must also ask him to bless the US.”
 
You guys have turned the page of history.

This really made my day.  What Cass said.  Yeah.

Thanks, thanks for everything.
 
Those look like 3 happy guys. Thanks for the write-up, sounds like the country is pulling itself up.
 
 Great story, Bill.  Thanks for sharing, and thanks to Cass for linking to it.
 

What Cass and Don said...

And a well done Mr. Bill.

 
Aww! Just Aww! (having looked at the last pic, and also having just finished re-reading "The Weapon", by Sgt. Williamson.) There are good people to be found in bad societies, and vice versa. I thought evverbody knew that.
 
P.s. Dang, Chief, you do the position of Attention better than a lot of twenty-year-olds, and better than I can do, though I'm quite certain I'm younger than you are.
 
I wasn't at Attention, I was just standing erect (note caloused knuckles). And pretty much *everybody's* younger than I am...
 
Heeee - You may have to print out T-Shirts that say: I got my Crabs at the MWR Center!

Talk about Moral Busting.

 
Hah. All the neat places are closed by the time I get off work.

"Learn Kurmanji in Three Weeks! Classes held in the Clamtina every Thursday 1500 - 1600!"

"Luau at Karate Kat's! Friday Night 1700 - 1930!"

Between that and being married, my social life's a bust...
 
What a story!  I am speechless with awe.  Not because I know Americans have done well, but because the Iraqis rose to the challenge.  If this doesn't show they are ready to protect and defend their hard-won freedoms, I don't know what will.  Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
Wow.
 
The Engineer was reading Over My Shoulder and said to tell you "Thank you for all your hard work."  He also understands about mustaches.

Yes, Sugarbuttons is a QT.
 
I was just standing erect

Oh?  Really?  I have to go back and take a closer loook.
 
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/15/2008  News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

http://thunderrun.blogspot.com/2008/10/from-front-10152008.html
 
Cricket -- 10-Q.
 
I'm late here, but I was deeply moved by this, and blogged about it:  http://kirkpete.blogspot.com/2008/10/in-praise-of-milbloggers-and-of-iraqi.html
 
Nevermind misting up.  I don't see how Bill kept from blubbing when he heard that translation, but maybe he hears that sort of thing more often than we state-side media (MSM and otherwise) clients do.  Kinda makes up for Vietnam.
 
I delayed commenting on this because I sent email to most of my VN Rotor Wing folks linking them to Bill's post here.

I didn't see any responses from any of them here, but, based on the response I got to my email,  you can add another twenty or so to the comment numbers.

Their responses were all good......some, very, very good.......

One thing I've learned over the years..........apparently NOBODY forgets their flight class number......'nuff said........."Clear Right".......

 
Well, I ain't no aviator, but FAOBC 6-80 and FACBOC 8-80.
 
FAOBC 6-80?

Newbie. FAOBC 7-69.

W/ORWAC 69-32-B1.
 
HOOAH!  Great job, Bill!  You ought to be very proud. 

This is yet another milestone ignored by the MSM.