The Iraqi Air Force and Army Aviation are vital components in the current fight against the Islamic State group. American forces are taking part in the joint effort, however some are doing so in a manner that few people know of. The United States Air Force deploys members as Air Advisors to advise and assist the Iraqi air component to help put their aviation efforts over the top. Recently, two airmen from Team March stepped forward to communicate and demonstrate their expertise to the Iraqi military.
Senior Master Sgt. Angie Beckstead and Staff Sgt. Jon Rabanal, two Airmen from the 452nd Maintenance Group, deployed to Iraq earlier this year and worked alongside other coalition forces in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operational name for the military intervention against the Islamic State group.
According to U.S. Central Command officials, the name Inherent Resolve is intended to reflect the unwavering resolve and deep commitment of the U.S. and partner nations in the region and around the globe to eliminate the Islamic State group and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community. It also symbolizes the willingness and dedication of coalition members to work closely with our friends in the region.
Beckstead, currently assigned to the Quality Assurance shop, was the Superintendent of the 770th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron where she managed 24 Airmen, across two Foreign Operating Bases (FOBs), helping to push the advisor mission and aiding Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve in an effort to defeat the Islamic State group. Beckstead benchmarked an Iraqi Air Force C-130 training program, assisting over 200 Iraqi Air Force members to ready themselves for upgrade training. She also used her knowledge of the Defense Contract Management Agency to advise Iraqi Air Force Headquarters concerning Foreign Military Sales.
“Assisting the Iraq military to create a sustainable Air Force to defeat ISIS and maintain their national security throughout the Middle East was challenging, but an important task to perform,” said Beckstead.
Rabanal, currently assigned to the Maintenance Management Analysis shop, was also assigned to the 770th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. He helped the Iraqi Air Force and Army Aviation gain a better understanding of aircraft performance and the health of the fleet. In addition to advising on analytical processes, Rabanal routinely performed Guardian Angel duty when meetings were conducted outside the wire, where he was responsible for safeguarding his fellow airmen when working with host nation key leaders.
“Assisting the Iraq military to create a sustainable Air Force to defeat ISIS and maintain their national security throughout the Middle East was challenging, but an important task to perform,” Rabanal said. “This deployment guided me towards embracing the whole airman concept, and see first-hand why we are regarded as the world’s best Air Force”.
Overall, the duo looks back on their deployment as a unique, yet fulfilling experience. Their willingness to step forward and perform outside of their Air Force Specialty Codes are one of the many fine examples of the 452nd Maintenance Group’s efforts worldwide.