Friday, February 27, 2009

Top Story>>Airmen teach Iraqi air force members aircraft maintenance

By Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham
US Air Forces Central, Baghdad Media Outreach Team

Airmen from the 321st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron at Sather Air Base, Iraq are teaching Iraqi air force members aircraft structural maintenance as both parties learn each other's language.

The advisers concluded that the best way to teach the Iraqis the intricate tasks of aircraft structural maintenance was to let their counterparts do the teaching for them.

"When we first arrived, there was a huge language barrier, but over time we have made progress in teaching the Iraqis aircraft maintenance," said Tech. Sgt. Jim Grifasi, a 321st AEAS metals technician adviser deployed from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. "We have also learned a lot about how to teach them. We decided to teach the ones who could speak English, the ones we could communicate with, and then let them teach their own."

The experimental teaching process has been an enormous success, said Tech. Sgt. Bobby McKenzie, a 321st AEAS aircraft structural maintenance adviser deployed from the 19th Maintenance Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

"Not only are the Iraqis learning how to do their job, but they are even using American written technical orders to accomplish tasks," he said, "I came in one day and one of them noticed a part was missing, so he took it upon himself to interpret the T.O., order the part and use the Iraqi supply system to get the part delivered."

Not only are the advisers teaching the Iraqis how to perform their day-to-day jobs, but also they are teaching them the importance of running a successful shop, Sergeant McKenzie said.

"We are trying to make (an Iraqi major) realize that he is the boss and he needs to make decisions that are in the best interest of his shop," said the native of Manchester, Tenn.

"We are also promoting pride in the workplace, and the importance of a clean work space," said Sergeant Grifasi, who is originally from Buffalo, N.Y.

The Iraqi maintainers have come full circle since these advisers arrived more than six months ago, but they said it was their dedication that impressed them the most.

"One of our guys (became the father of ) a baby girl recently, and when we worked it out so he could go and see her for the first time, he said, 'If you can stay here for a year away from your family to teach me, then I can wait a few more days to see my daughter.' That's how dedicated these guys are," Sergeant McKenzie said.

The two advisers said it has been difficult at times, but they feel like they are making a difference.

"It has been a very rewarding experience," Sergeant McKenzie said. "I have just focused every bit of energy on teaching the Iraqis as much as possible and making friends."

"I told my commander that if I don't do something that truly makes a difference in changing their life, then I have wasted the last year of mine," Sergeant Grifasi said.


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