Tag Archives: CAOC

Dispatch from Ali Base, 5 August 2009

Below is this week’s Dispatch from Ali Base from 1st Lt. Korry Leverett.

Airmen help Iraqis fight the flames
By 1st Lt. Korry Leverett
407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

When the Ali Base firefighters of the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron aren’t saving baby camels from wells, they are taking time to train Iraqi firefighters.

Earlier this week I received a phone call from Tech. Sgt. Zachary Townsend, a firefighter with the 407th ECES, deployed from Columbus AFB, Miss., who mentioned that his Airmen would be doing “live fire” training with a group of 10 Iraqi firefighters from the Dhi Qar province, An Nasiriyah city … what an opportunity I thought.

After talking to Sergeant Townsend about his request to come out and witness the training, I gathered my Airmen and we headed out to the training site.  Upon arriving on scene I realized just how hot it was, probably 115 degrees, and the wind was blowing around 40 miles per hour.  These were some of the worst conditions imaginable for training outside but there was no stop in these firefighters.  The dust was so bad I could taste it, and the sun beating down on me felt as if it was singeing my face.

Approximately 15 Airmen from the 407th ECES provided hands on training to the Iraqis.  They set up two different live fire scenarios, a container express (CONEX) and a vehicle fire.  After walking through the appropriate responses the firefighters suited up into an additional three layers of clothing and equipment.  It added 70 pounds to the load they were already carrying.  In teams of three, Iraqi and U.S. firefighters battled the fires setup in the CONEX and the vehicle.

I could tell this was a new experience for many of the Iraqis.  I was told they had never before donned some of the safety equipment such as the protective suits or oxygen masks used by many firefighting departments.  Sergeant Townsend mentioned to me that by wearing the additional equipment this would allow them to get close enough to the fire to feel the heat from the flames.  I could feel the heat standing at a safe distance so I can just imagine what it must have been like walking right into the flames … well almost.

This was the final training session for the group but it wouldn’t be soon forgotten.  The Airmen here had been mentoring the Iraqi firefighters for the last six weeks and I could tell that they shared a bond from their experiences together.  Several of them mentioned to me that they believed this was “what it’s all about.”  They knew that if they helped save even one person through their hard work with the Iraqi firefighters then they have accomplished their mission.

One last thing, earlier this year the firefighters from the 407th saved a baby camel from a well and Animal Planet has plans to do a short story on their efforts.  It’s unknown at this time when the feature is expected to air but if you would like more information you can watch a brief news clip done by Staff Sgt. James Stewart, Eielson AFB, Alaska on the Ali Base Web site or visit Stars and Stripes.


ALI BASE, Iraq – Senior Airman John Black from the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron assists an Iraqi firefighter from the Dhi Qar Province, An Nasiriyah city, in positioning his safety equipment and mask before a training event here August 3. Airmen from the 407th ECES have been mentoring the Iraqi firefighters for six weeks in order to provide them with additional fire response experience and training. (US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tony R. Ritter)

ALI BASE, Iraq – A U.S. Air Force Airman from the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron directs two Iraqi firefighters from the Dhi Qar province, An Nasiriyah city, as they prepare to enter a burning Container Express (CONEX) here August 3.  Airmen from the 407th ECES have been mentoring the Iraqi firefighters for six weeks in order to provide them with adequate fire response experience and training.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tony R. Ritter)

Dispatch from Ali Base–Unnamed Heroes

This week, we welcome 1st Lieutenant Korry Leverett to Air Force Live. 1stLt Leverett is replacing Master Sergeant Russ Petcoff as our voice from Ali Base, Iraq. MSgt Petcoff’s deployment is over and he has returned back to the D.C. area. We’d like to give a huge thanks to MSgt Petcoff for giving us some insight into deployed life and sharing the stories of the men and women serving at Ali Base.  1stLt Leverett joins us with a somber reminder of the ongoing dangers and fight in the deployed zones and a tribute to those who do not make it back home.

Unnamed Heroes
By 1st Lt. Korry Leverett
407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

Recently I made the journey from Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Mont., to Ali Base, Iraq.  It was a lengthy process to say the least but upon arrival I became privy to all the amazing things Airmen are doing in the 120 degree heat, day and night.  As impressed as I was, and still am, I was swiftly reminded of the serious nature of the business we are in and the toll it takes on the men and women who sacrifice so much for our nation.

As evening approached and moonlight filled the sky at Ali Base, Iraq, 20 or so Airmen and Soldiers gathered at the tail end of a C-130 Hercules to pay their respects to three soldiers who had been killed the night before.  It was one of the most gut wrenching events of our short lives but we knew it had to be done.  Lining both sides of the aircraft in preparation for the transfer my heart raced.  The mood was somber and silence filled the night sky.  I didn’t know what to expect of myself and even more importantly I did not know what to expect of two of my young Airmen that were there with me.

“I need you two now,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gerald Delebreau, superintendent for the 407th Air Expeditionary Group at Ali Base, Iraq.  He was looking straight at my Airmen and requesting their immediate assistance with the transfer.  I could see they were a little surprised but they did not hesitate.  They had just been asked to assist in the transfer of a fallen comrade … no questions asked, they were there to support.

As the vehicle backed up to the procession and the transfer team began to unload the flag draped caskets our detail was called to attention and the order to present arms was given.  We stood eye to eye at attention, saluting as the team passed in front of us three times.  We were doing everything we could to pay the proper respect to those who paid the ultimate price.

As the procession ended and the detail was dismissed I could see out of the corner of my eye a large group of Airmen, many of whom worked on the flightline, off in the distance standing at attention.  I was moved by their presence … they had made every effort to cease operations for even just a moment in time to pay their respect.

As we drove back to our CHU (compartmentalized housing unit) late that evening neither my Airmen nor I could say a word.  I could tell they were deeply moved by the event and found out the next morning that neither slept well that evening.

We had no idea who the fallen soldiers were we just knew that we had to take a moment in time to honor those who sacrificed so much.  Though they were nameless to us they will live forever in our minds as American heroes.

Dispatch from Ali Base, 9 July 2009

Below is this week’s Dispatch from Ali Base from Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff.

Ali Base Airmen observed the 4th of July with a day of fun and relaxation. Many base organizations banded together to put together a traditional carnival and fire muster. Even in the middle of a desert, Ali Airmen were able to establish a mini water park complete with a slip ’n’ slide and wading pool to cool off from the 120-degree heat. While most Americans enjoyed a fireworks display, Ali Airmen used their ingenuity to enjoy a videotape fireworks display projected on concrete walls.

There’s something about observing the 4th of July outside of the United States. It’s a time to reflect on the freedoms Americans enjoy. Too often these freedoms go unnoticed by our fellow Americans who have never had the opportunity to live or serve abroad. It’s too easy to take for granted the freedoms life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Above: Staff Sgt. Valerie Gilbert, 407th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron, glides down a slip ’n’ slide during the Ali Base Independence Day Bash. The Ali Company Grade Officer Council sponsored the slide in conjunction with other Independence Day activities that included a carnival, dunk tank and fire muster. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt touched on four freedoms during his Jan. 6, 1941, State of the Union Address before Congress. The address is known as FDR’s Four Freedoms Speech:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

Protecting freedoms home and abroad is why Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coastguardsmen and Department of Defense civilians proudly serve and why we are deployed around the world. It’s why members of the Greatest Generation fought in World War II and why members of this great generation are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dispatch from Ali Base, 3 July 2009

Below is this week’s Dispatch from Ali Base from Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff.

A multi-national food conglomerate created Shake ‘n’ Bake. Ricky Bobby and Cal Naughton Jr. popularized the phrase in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Here at Ali we have our own version…it can be called “Dust ‘n’ Bake.”

For about a week we have undergone a hot dust storm that just won’t go away. Imagine hot air hitting you in the face at 50 miles per hour or more and drying out your eyes. Add small pebbles and sand the consistency and color of instant chocolate pudding (hold the milk). This gives you a point of reference for Ali Base “Dust ‘n’ Bake.” The sand dusts us, and the hot sun bakes us.

Traffic rolls along a road on Ali Base, Iraq, during a dust storm June 30. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)
Traffic rolls along a road on Ali Base, Iraq, during a dust storm June 30. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky)

With the amount of dust blowing around, it’s understandable how after a few thousand years something as large as the Ziggurat of Ur is buried.

Speaking of the Ziggurat of Ur and Abraham’s home, Staff Sgt. James Stewart, 407th Air Expeditionary Group broadcaster, recently finished an excellent video on those two historic locations. “The Ancient City of Ur” is at the 407th AEG Web site. It’s worth 16 minutes of your life! The story of Abraham – he was known as Abram then before God changed his name – living in Ur can be found in Genesis 11:31 of the Bible:

Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. (New International Version)

Abraham is the father of the world’s three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. To think, this started from Ur located not far from Ali Base. The historic significance, let alone the religious implications, is awe-inspiring.

Dispatch from Ali Base, 26 June 2009

Below is this week’s Dispatch from Ali Base from Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff.

It amazes me the little coincidences what happen in the most far-off places…thousands of miles away from a common frame of reference. When I was in Afghanistan in 2007 a transient Navy petty officer was billeted in room. While talking with him, I learned he was from Conway, N.H. Ordinarily, this town nestled in the Mount Washington Valley would mean nothing to me other than my wife is from there. Turns out the petty officer remembers my wife. (At this point, cue the Walt Disney ditty “It’s A Small World After All.”)

I mention this because as the judge advocate liaison for the 407th Air Expeditionary Group I am hosting a visit from Capt. Rebecca E. Dickinson and Master Sgt. Katrina Martin. They are from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Judge Advocate Office. While talking with Sergeant Martin. I mentioned I graduated from Indiana University in 1985.

“You’re from Indiana too?” she asked.
“Yeah, where you from?” I asked.

“I’m from Schererville/Dyer,” said Sergeant Martin of the area 30 miles southeast of Chicago. At this point, the “Small World” meter pegged to overload because that’s where I’m from. Ali Base and Dyer are more than 6,400 miles apart. Turns out, we both graduated from Lake Central High School, but a decade apart. She grew up 5 miles from where I did. She remembers Aurelio’s Pizza in Schererville…mmm, good pizza!

Operation Iraqi Child
Ali Base Airmen gathered together June 20 to help the children of Iraq. Together, they put together almost 500 school supply packets for Iraqi children. Staff Sgt. James Stewart put together an excellent Operation Iraqi Child video. One of the Airmen helping was Airman 1st Class Suzy Williams, 407th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. (photo left)

Master Sgt. Barry Jackson, 407th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron first sergeant, explained the program in the video.

“We build packages that go out to Iraqi children to their school house and give these items to show everybody exactly what we’re doing in Iraq,” said the Philadelphia native. “That we’re actually rebuilding nation here and that’s a major reason why we’re doing this – to help out.

“Packages include notebooks, pencils, erasers, rulers and even soccer balls for physical education,” Sergeant Jackson said. He is deployed here from the 37th Mission Support Squadron, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Groundhog Day
For Ali Airmen, the days roll together one after another. We almost feel like Bill Murray’s meteorologist Phil Connors from “Groundhog Day.” Maintaining motivation to support Ali’s role in the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom is of utmost importance for commanders within the 407th AEG. “Airmen are key to expeditionary mission success” offers the commanders’ insights into the importance of every Airman’s job.

“It doesn’t matter where you work, every Airman is critical,” said Col. Glen A. Apgar, 407th AEG commander. “If you ask an aerial porter what they did today, they probably tell you that they pushed a few pallets or loaded a few passengers. But, really what they did was deliver critical supplies or troops to the fight. Supplies or troops that, if not delivered, would impact our nation’s mission in Iraq.”

According to the colonel, the Tuskegee Airmen of Ali Base are making history every day.

“The people of Iraq owe their freedom and future to them. They are teaching local firefighters how to fight fires effectively. They are teaching local security teams how to disarm an improvised explosive device.” The colonel added every Airmen is directly contributing to the success of the United States’ overall mission in Iraq by enabling and supporting the group’s mission.