CAB, 1st Inf. Div PAO
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – A Chinook maintainer with Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, afforded some visitors at his reenlistment ceremony on Camp Taji a unique opportunity.
As Spc. Igor Pinto Machado, a native of Brasilia, Brazil, and veteran of the Brazilian air force, raised his right hand for an additional five years in the U.S. Army during a Cinco de Mayo celebration, Iraqi Air Force personnel witnessed how U.S. leaders reward their enlisted Soldiers. Pinto Machado said the timing was perfect for him.
“I’m glad I got to be a part of this,” said Pinto Machado. “It’s great to see the different cultures come together.”
The Cinco de Mayo celebration was organized to strengthen the social partnership between the CAB and its Iraqi Air Force counterparts. The reenlistment ceremony added a different element to the celebration.
The Iraqis received a glimpse at the U.S. ceremony and the gratitude bestowed upon enlisted Soldiers for committing themselves to the service of their nation – a practice far different from the Iraqi version.
As responsibility for Iraqi security steadily shifts from coalition forces to the Iraqi Security Forces, the nation’s air force and other branches of the military are looking to the U.S. military to learn about how to recruit and retain personnel in a volunteer service. With Iraqi service members often targeted by insurgents for their service and cooperation with the American military, it has been proven difficult to sustain a large force.
Service in the Iraqi military was a mandatory obligation under Saddam Hussein’s rule; young Iraqi males were obligated to serve, unless they were pursuing a college education. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Saddam’s military was disbanded and re-established as a volunteer service.
While the new military has discarded conscription and become an all volunteer service, many characteristics of the former force remain. Unlike U.S. Soldiers, Iraqis enlist for the entirety of their career – once a Soldier signs up, he is committed to serve until retirement. The average Iraqi troop serves between 20 and 30 years.
Brig. Gen. Nadhem Lefta, the senior Iraqi Air Force officer on Camp Taji, said that the most essential part of sustaining an effective military force is the morale of its Soldiers.
“The morale has changed with the situation. The Soldier in the war – if he has a goal – it increases his morale,” Nadhem said. “Our goal now is safety for our country.”
The relationships between enlisted Soldiers and commissioned and warrant officers are also important to morale, Nadhem said. The Iraqi military has constantly evolved for the past 40 years, and had adopted a Soviet philosophy on discipline, he said.
In the past, enlisted personnel were strictly forbidden to interact with officers. Any offense or disrespect rendered to an officer by a soldier meant immediate punishment, usually by military confinement.
Soldiers have since gained more rights and privileges, Nadhem said. The nation’s military now follows the U.S. model. Like U.S. Soldiers, Iraqi troops are now allowed much more leniency in their relationships with officers and superiors.
“When the enlisted have a good relationship with the officers, it increases the morale,” said Nadhem.
Moving forward, Pinto Machado and the CAB will continue their mission of assisting the Iraqi Air Force in providing air support to security forces on the ground.
By Spc. Roland Hale