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Iraqi Air Force
“When the Iraqi Air Force members are at work, they typically eat and sleep at the base because military members are regularly targeted for assassination,” Major ...

Iraqi Air Force

Maj. Brad Head, United States Air Force

“When the Iraqi Air Force members are at work, they typically eat and sleep at the base because military members are regularly targeted for assassination,” Major Brad Head revealed in an email to his wife.

An Iraqi Air staff deputy director had been recently kidnapped and killed. Most Iraqi Air staff didn’t tell anyone they were in the Iraqi Air Force. As a result, members didn’t like to stay at work very long so they could “show up” in their neighborhood every few days to keep people from asking questions. The commander of one of the Iraqi flying bases went so far as to put up a taxi cab sign on his car to disguise his real job.

Despite facing overwhelming odds, Head and his teammates managed to start the Iraqi Air Force program with twenty-three students on schedule in April 2007. They solved their renovation woes by securing temporary digs in a building they labeled “the Alamo” until the renovation of their permanent facility known as the “White Castle” was complete.

Head and his team finalized the curriculum, customizing it to reflect the subtle nuances of Iraqi culture and taking into consideration the unique roles, mission, and equipment fielded by the new Iraqi Air Force.

“In spite of the complete failure of our staff to plan for our arrival, we are doing the best we can with what we’ve got. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that successes for the original team will be to lay a solid foundation for those who will follow in our footsteps,” Head explained, noting they were effectively re-creating the Iraqi Air Force from scratch.

“When I call headquarters in Baghdad for guidance, they respond that no one knows better than I do; so just do what I think makes the most sense. I regularly find myself creating policies that will drive the creation of the Iraqi Air Force for years to come,” Head noted.

Head identified disconnects between the number of Iraqi military personnel on the books and what the Iraqi military was supposed to look like by calendar year’s end. Taking space limitations into consideration, he mapped a plan that flowed the majority of people possible into the most critical career fields. As he made something out of nothing, he was doing general’s work well above his pay grade.

“In the U.S. Air Force, the person who makes those types of decisions is the four-star general in charge of Air Education and Training Command. Here I am a newly pinned Major sitting in a trailer in Taji (with little to no input from Iraqi military or anyone in the coalition) and effectively making that same level of decisions. Another Major is doing something similar. Surreal,” he wrote.

Head’s experience was about to become even more surreal. General Allardice, commander of the Coalition Air Force Transition Team (who also happened to be his boss from his time on the Air Staff in the Pentagon), asked Head to accept a new responsibility and move to headquarters in Bagdad. He was about to find himself doing work he never dreamed he would get to do.


Father, you are the giver of surreal moments in life, and I praise you for the gift of your Son, whose promise of eternal life will one day take me to Heaven, the greatest place beyond earthly reality.

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