Iraqi Air Force officer Lieutenant Ali Kareem aged 21, graduates from Royal Air Force College Cranwell on Friday 13th March 2009, when he will receive his Iraqi Air Force pilot's 'wings' alongside six RAF colleagues.
Lieutenant Kareem will become the first Iraqi student to graduate to the full RAF "Wings" standard as a multi-engine pilot. His new qualification paves the way for him to return to his homeland where the Iraqi Air Force (IAF) will complete his training on a multi-engine conversion unit. He will then take to the air flying military transport aircraft such as the C130 Hercules and King Air.
The security situation in Iraq has improved and stabilised to such an extent that Lieutenant Kareem and his family are very happy to speak with the media. Previously, Iraqi International Defence students undertaking training in the UK have shied away from publicity for fear of reprisals on return to Iraq.
Group Captain Nigel "Wam" Wharmby, the Station Commander at RAF Cranwell and Officer Commanding No.3 Flying Training School, said:
"I am delighted that Lt Ali Kareem has graduated successfully from his multi-engine flying training at RAF Cranwell. The course is complex and extremely demanding, necessarily so, covering all basic flying disciplines in order to prepare students for the challenge of operating any of the diverse fleet of multi-engine aircraft in service.
"Beyond the basic rigours of flying, the course also focuses heavily on captaincy, airmanship and crew resource management - intangible but vital attributes for military aircrew.
"Several inevitably will struggle to make the standard required for graduation and thereby the award of their coveted flying brevet or Wings, whilst others may never achieve that standard. Challenge enough for RAF students, but for Lt Kareem to have achieved the graduation standard, despite the many additional pressures of having to integrate into unfamiliar surroundings, a different culture and the RAF way of life has been very satisfying for the staff and his colleagues on the course to witness.
"The RAF and No.3 Flying Training School are no strangers to training international students in many branches and the exchange of experiences, the enhanced understanding and the bonds forged through such relationships are extremely important.
"In 2004 I was privileged to command Basra Air Station at the moment that it was decided to regenerate the Iraqi Air Force. The first unit of it formed at and operated from Basra whilst under my tenure. I am therefore especially pleased to once again be in a position to host one of their pilots."
"This is a very proud occasion for all the graduates but perhaps especially so for Lt Kareem who has bridged many gaps during his time with us. We all wish him well for what must be a very promising future within the new Iraqi Air Force."
Lt Ali Kareem, said,
"The course has been both challenging and enjoyable, a real mixture of the two.
"Graduation is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I'm really proud of my achievement. I'm now looking forward to going back home and continuing with my training with the Iraqi Air Force."
Header Image: (Larger size) King Air Aircraft.
Image 1: (Larger size) Iraqi Air Force officer Lieutenant Ali Kareem aged 21, graduates from Royal Air Force College Cranwell on Friday 13th March 2009.