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3 Aug 07
by Master Sgt. Steve Horton
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
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CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq (AFPN) – Airmen roll out of the gates from here in armored Humvees and drive dangerous roads into Tikrit and the surrounding areas five days a week to do their part in helping Iraq transition to a peaceful democracy.

For the Airmen assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Det. 6, arming up and putting on more than 50 pounds of body armor and equipment in 115-degree heat is part of their role as members of Iraqi Police Transition Teams.

As coalition forces and Iraqis fight the insurgency, Iraqi police stations are established in neighborhoods with police transition teams to help get the process started. The 45-person detachment operates at the provincial and district levels of the Iraq police, while Army PTTs operate at the station level in the Salah ad Din province, an area that covers approximately 25,000 square kilometers and has more than one million citizens.

The mission of each PTT is to coach, mentor and assess the Iraqi police, said Maj. Erik Bruce, the Det. 6 commander. The provincial police level is roughly the equivalent of a state, the district level roughly a county, and the station level deals with each individual Iraqi police station, he said. “The goal of each team is to help the Iraqis establish a functioning independent police force,” Major Bruce said. “This is not something the Air Force has done before, but overall, we’re having a positive impact on the (Iraqi police) and the security environment in Iraq as a whole.”

The major works with his counterpart at the provincial police headquarters, a former two-star Iraqi general, now the provincial director of police, to help plan security operations, create policies regarding logistics, finance, communications, budget and personnel management for the province. “He’s effective as a leader. His Iraqi army experience gives him good operational background in command and control of forces and conduct of operations targeting insurgents and terrorists,” Major Bruce said. “He knows how to hold people accountable. He knows how to lead people into action and how to run a staff, so I’m fortunate in that regard.”

When some of the responsibilities of the teams include overseeing the accountability and distribution of 10,000 weapons and 1.4 million rounds of ammunition, as well as the monthly expenditures of the $61 million 2007 budget, it’s important for the PTT members to establish an effective working relationship with Iraqi police leaders they deal with. “The day-to-day interaction is the easy part,” said Capt. Greg Bodenstein, the 732nd ESFS Det. 6, chief of the Tikrit District PTT. “It’s just using people skills to figure out what motivates these people. It’s good to see the development in thinking and how we’ve influenced them,” echoed the captain’s comments.

“If you go into these situations fired-up and motivated, the Iraqis take that spark and make it a fire,” said Master Sgt. Killjan Anderson, the 732nd ESFS Det. 6, assistant team chief for the provincial PTT. “I get excited about it.

“You’re able to see the results of what you’re doing when you spark something that helps them get going,” Sergeant Anderson said. “You see the results right away. The rate of change is very fast and very rewarding. You can see how you make things better for people.”

Through the almost daily engagements with the Iraqi police leadership, the transition teams have to constantly reassess their priorities based on many different factors. “You take away a lot of respect for the Iraqis trying to make a difference,” he said. “It takes incredible courage from these people to work at making things better despite the odds against them.”

It’s because of that courage that the Airmen of the 732nd ESFS Det. 6 will show their courage and continue to traverse the dangerous roads of Iraq to do their part in helping the Iraqi police grow into a functioning independent police force.

Photo – Staff Sgt. Aaron Downing secures the area around a Humvee during “battle drills” performed before each mission at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq. Sergeant Downing performs duties on a Police Transition Team here, and the drills are designed to simulate any possible situation the team may encounter while conducting missions outside the wire. The PTT’s goal is to help the Iraqis establish a functioning, independent police force. Sergeant Downing is assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Det 1. Photo Master Sgt. Steve Horton.

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25 July 07
by Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke
447th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
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NEW AL-MUTHANA AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) — Firefighters from the 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron are spending their spare time training firefighters from the Iraqi air force to make them an autonomous unit at New Al-Muthana Air Base. Airmen spend about one day a week running Iraqis through drills and training procedures.

During training earlier this month, Master Sgt. Craig Milton, the 447th ECES assistant fire chief, put together a live building fire. During this scenario the firefighters from the U.S and Iraqi air forces had to work together to extinguish the fire and rescue a 200-pound dummy from a burning room. Other training involved a simulated burning aircraft where Iraqis had to shut down jet engines and remove an unconscious pilot.

Airmen have been training Iraqis regularly for about two months, said Master Sgt. Steven Carver, the 447th ECES deputy fire chief. The most pressing obstacle is the Iraqi’s equipment deficit. Sergeant Carver said they just cannot obtain good equipment easily and could use up-to-date rescue trucks and more breathing tanks.

However, other areas involve a mindset, and not the pocketbook. Inexperience is a speed bump since none of the Iraqis here were firefighters before April 2003, said Hassan Shimary, the Iraqi air force fire chief. “In the United States, (firefighters) have learned from many mistakes, like rushing into a building without first making observations,” Sergeant Carver said. “People die if you don’t consider the environment, and that’s what we’re trying to teach them.”

An entire U.S. Air Force squadron is here to provide guidance and to council the members of the Iraqi air force. The 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron works closely with Iraqi airmen from multiple professions daily. But Col. Mark Schmitz, the 370th AEAS commander, said he has no firefighter advisers in his squadron, and he depends on the firefighters from the 447th ECES to volunteer help. “I’m lucky enough to be based next to Sather where there are experienced firefighters,” the colonel said. “The Iraqis have equipment, manning and training shortfalls, but I think their firefighters are improving because of the Sather firefighters help.”

With the right training, the Iraqis will get the experience they need to be independent in a couple years, Sergeant Milton said. And during that time, the Iraqis said they hope to continue to build working relationships with Americans. “We enjoy the experience to train with Americans,” said Chief Shimary through a translator. “We are glad to have the Americans for friends; they give us confidence in what we’re doing.”

Photo – Master Sgt. Craig Milton observes firefighters from the Iraqi air force remove Staff Sgt. Vance Vansteel from an Iraqi C-130 flight deck July 9 at New Al-Muthana Air Base, Iraq. Sergeant Vansteel represented an unconscious pilot during a simulated aircraft fire. The exercise trained Iraqis to respond to an aircraft fire by shutting down engines and removing an unconscious pilot. U.S. Airmen set up the scenario and guided them through the process. Sergeants Milton and Vansteel are firefighters with the 447th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron. Photo Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke.

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