97th CES Airman works with Iraqi airmen downrange

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The establishment of the Iraqi Air Force Headquarters building at Joint Base Balad is another forward step toward the transition as part of the drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq by the end of this year.

A project to repair a fountain in front of the building recently began that is fostering collaboration between about 20 U.S. Airmen and civilians and Iraqi Airmen.

"The project presented a great opportunity for simple electrical, horizontal and plumbing training all in one project," said Capt. Jay Stellwagen, who is deployed from Misawa Air Base, Japan.

The building will eventually house the IqAF Balad Air Base wing commander and his staff.

"Our Air Force is still beginning and we are trying to stand up our headquarters building," said IqAF Airman Hayder. "The fountain is going to be very beautiful which will add to the importance of our headquarter building."

Airmen from the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron assisted Iraqi Airmen in reestablishing the fountain.

"This is a once in a lifetime experience to merge with the Iraqi Airmen," said Airman 1st Class Dillon Boutin, 332nd ECES electrical systems journeyman, who is deployed from Altus Air Force Base, Okla. "They have their way of doing things and we have our way of doing things and we combined those to create one solution."

Boutin is a native of Lafayette, La.

"This fountain means a lot to them so it is an honor to help them," added Senior Airman Juan Ramirez, 332nd ECES electrical systems journeyman, who is deployed from Andrews AFB, Md. "This experience has made me really take pride in my work."

Ramirez is a native of Las Vegas, Nev.

The U.S. Airmen learned from the Iraqi Airmen and vice versa.

"The (U.S.) Airmen have been very helpful and it is nice working with them," said IqAF Airman Amnar. "I used to work in airfield lighting so I've learned a lot working with them and showing them how we do things."

The fountain is scheduled to be completed before the end of this year.

"Total repair of the fountain includes removing old cables, saw cutting the asphalt driveway and sidewalks to protect the new cable, adding components to the interior electrical panel and troubleshooting the fountain water pump and cleaning the plumbing system once the fountain is actually running," said Stellwagen, who is a native of Six Miles, S.C.

Editor's note: The last names of the Iraqi Airmen were left out for security reasons.