Air Force officer helps Iraqi pilots get off the ground


Iraqi student pilots prepare their T-6 Texan II aircraft for takeoff at the Al Sahra Airfield in Tikrit, Iraq. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT.

Air Force Lt. Col. Chris Lachance is one of only three U.S. airmen in Iraq who is supervising efforts to train the next crop of Iraqi pilots and air traffic controllers.

Lachance works at Al Sahra Airfield in Tikrit, where he is in charge of more than 800 contractors and Iraqis, according to an American Forces Press Service story.

“I look at the big picture of the Iraqi training mission from here to see if they are being taught and properly engaged by the American contractors and Iraqi instructor pilots,” he said in the story. “I make sure Iraq is getting what it pays for.”

Like their American counterparts, Iraqi pilots start by learning the very basics of aviation, but since the Iraqi air force is relatively small, the Iraqis have to do a lot more work, AFPS reported. Iraqi officers and enlisted service members can work all night and then show up to class the next day running on little sleep.

The pace of training is also much slower in Iraq, but Lachance said both sides have formed a solid partnership.

“There is no animosity towards us,” he said. “They want to rebuild as our partner and friend. Things are going well. And although there are bumps in the road, no one is giving up.”


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