Airmen help Iraqi air force maintain air dominance

Iraqi Air Force Capt. Hama, student pilot, conducts preflight inspections while inside a new to service Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon located at the nearby Tucson International Airport, Dec. 17, 2014. Hama was part of the first class of Iraqi students training with the 162nd Wing to further enhance interoperability between the two partner nations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

Iraqi Air Force Capt. Hama, student pilot, conducts preflight inspections while inside a new to service Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon located at the nearby Tucson International Airport, Dec. 17, 2014. Hama was part of the first class of Iraqi students training with the 162nd Wing to further enhance interoperability between the two partner nations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

Air Force Lt. Col. Julian Pacheco and Iraqi Air Force Capt Hama land one of the IAF's new  F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at the nearby Tucson International Airport, Dec. 16, 2014. Due to the current security situation in Iraq, the IAF pilots will complete their training in their own aircraft in the US instead of from air bases in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

Air Force Lt. Col. Julian Pacheco and Iraqi Air Force Capt Hama land one of the IAF's new F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at the nearby Tucson International Airport, Dec. 16, 2014. Due to the current security situation in Iraq, the IAF pilots will complete their training in their own aircraft in the US instead of from air bases in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

Iraqi Air Force Capt. Hama, student pilot, conducts preflight inspections while inside a new to service Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon located at the nearby Tucson International Airport, Dec. 17, 2014. Hama was part of the first class of Iraqi students training with the 162nd Wing to further enhance interoperability between the two partner nations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

Iraqi Air Force Capt. Hama, student pilot, conducts preflight inspections while inside a new to service Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon located at the nearby Tucson International Airport, Dec. 17, 2014. Hama was part of the first class of Iraqi students training with the 162nd Wing to further enhance interoperability between the two partner nations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

BAHGDAD -- Instructor pilots from the 370th Expeditionary Air Squadron, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, have an important role working with the Iraqi Air Force to maintain air dominance in the fight in against ISIS. These Airmen train Iraqi pilots to fly F-16 Fighting Falcons at Balad Air Base, Iraq.

The 370th EAS instructors perform an advise and assist function, teaching their Iraqi counterparts how to rule the skies.

“We do advising and assist with their upgrade programs and with tactical deficiencies that we see,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Brian Lewis, an instructor pilot with the 370th AES. “The overall goal is to make them better F-16 pilots.”

The Iraqi pilots are initially trained in the U.S. at 162nd Air Wing, located in Tucson, Arizona. After completing their training in the U.S., the pilots return to in Iraq where they are assisted by U.S. instructor pilots who help them further improve their flying capabilities in real-world combat operations.

“We provide expertise and assistance with combat operations and assist with the target development through mission planning and through briefing,” said Lewis.

The instructors play an important role in the fight, though they don’t get to see the effects of their work first hand.

“We don’t get to see the execution because we are not flying with them, but whenever they come back, we go over the debriefing and come up with lessons learned or debrief focus points to improve the overall capabilities of the Iraqi F-16 pilots,” he said.

The advise and assist function benefits the Iraqis by improving training, which shows its results out on the battlefield.

Though not physically in the fight, Lewis said he feels good seeing the Iraqi Air Force pilots do their job.

“The most rewarding part of the job would be seeing their successes, knowing we had a small hand in aiding that,” he said.