BAGHDAD (Dec. 8, 2008) — The Iraqi Air Force conducted its first rotary-wing night mission since 2003 in the skies over Baghdad, Dec. 3. Two Iraqi crews, using night vision equipment, flew their Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters outside the air base at Taji. The first Iraqi night vision goggle sortie occurred in August.The mission started with a trip to Besmaya range for NVG gun training for the Iraqi helicopter gunners and pilots and then a landing at Landing Zone Washington, in Baghdad’s International Zone, and Landing Zone Liberty, near Baghdad International Airport, for familiarization. “This was the first ever Mi-17 NVG sortie outside of Taji airfield. All previous training has been ‘inside the fence’. This is the first one on the outside,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Daley.
The Iraqi Air Force acquired night vision goggles in June and began their night training with a fleet of American OH-58 Kiowa helicopters on loan from the Iowa National Guard. They trained day and night to be ready to take control of Iraq’s night skies.
“I spent six months here. It was pretty rough duty. It was starting at eight in the morning until noon to do dailies and fix what the pilots (needed fixed),” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Marshall Lantz, one of the Iowa Guardsmen who completed their mission in August. “Go back, take power naps, be back on the flight line at six and go ‘til eleven, twelve, even one or two o’clock in the morning for night flights. That went on six days a week for four months. That was our routine.”