Face of Defense: Air Force General Reflects on Iraq Duty Tour

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq — After spend­ing more than a year coor­di­nat­ing air­pow­er in Iraq and help­ing to ensure U.S. forces there drew down to less than 50,000 boots on the ground, the top air­man in Iraq is head­ed home.

Reynes has served as the director of the Air Component Coordination Element in Iraq
Air Force Maj. Gen. Joseph Reynes Jr. address­es atten­dees at the Air Force Cen­tral Com­mand-Iraq Plan­ning Con­fer­ence at Camp Vic­to­ry, Iraq, May 28, 2010. Reynes has served as the direc­tor of the Air Com­po­nent Coor­di­na­tion Ele­ment in Iraq, the direc­tor of the force strate­gic engage­ment cell for U.S. forces in Iraq, and 9th Air Expe­di­tionary Task Force, Bagh­dad, Detach­ment 2 com­man­der dur­ing his 18 months in Iraq.
U.S. Air Force pho­to by Senior Air­man Per­ry Aston
Click to enlarge

Serv­ing as the direc­tor of the Air Com­po­nent Coor­di­na­tion Ele­ment in Iraq, the direc­tor of the force strate­gic engage­ment cell for U.S. forces in Iraq, and the 9th Air Expe­di­tionary Task Force-Bagh­dad, Detach­ment 2 com­man­der, Maj. Gen. Joseph Reynes Jr. has watched the num­ber of ser­vice­mem­bers in Iraq decrease from 148,000 to almost 50,000, and the num­ber of air­men decrease from more than 12,000 to few­er than 6,000.

Reynes explained the mis­sion the Air Force has had in Iraq dur­ing his 18-months-plus tenure.

“We’ve pro­vid­ed time­ly and pre­cise air mobil­i­ty,” he said. “We’ve had 24/7 unblink­ing [intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance] to cov­er and work with our joint force part­ners. And then, of course, we’ve had kinet­ic and non-kinet­ic oper­a­tions at the dis­cre­tion of the com­man­ders in sup­port of their mis­sions.

“It’s been an awe­some mis­sion that we’ve exe­cut­ed over and over again, and we’ve just got­ten bet­ter every day,” the gen­er­al added.

U.S. forces in Iraq have tran­si­tioned from Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom to Oper­a­tion New Dawn. And, although the Air Force’s mis­sion in Iraq will most­ly stay the same, Reynes said, it will con­tin­ue to evolve.

“What’s evolved is how we trans­lat­ed those mis­sions, and how we’ve drawn down at the same time,” Reynes said. “[We’re] exe­cut­ing the same mis­sions, 24/7, 365 [days a year], in sup­port of the ground force com­man­der. And they’ve done that while we’ve done one of the most his­toric draw­downs, while exe­cut­ing the mis­sion at the same time.”

Mov­ing into Oper­a­tion New Dawn means adapt­ing to a small­er foot­print for U.S. air­men and grow­ing capa­bil­i­ties for Iraqi air­men, the gen­er­al said. It’s a new begin­ning for Iraq, he said, not­ing the Iraqi air force has grown from 1,500 air­men and 28 air­craft two years ago, to 7,000 air­men and more than 100 air­craft now.

The Iraqi air force is expect­ed to grow to more than 10,000 mem­bers by 2012, Reynes said. Mean­while, he said, Iraqi air­men are begin­ning to move onto bases such as Joint Base Bal­ad, and Ali and Sather air bases.

“We’ll con­tin­ue to sup­port and do the same mis­sions we’ve done, but at the same time we’re hand­ing more and more off to our Iraqi part­ners,” Reynes said. “And over the next year, you’re going to see more part­ner­ing with our Iraqi broth­ers and sis­ters, but also we’ll be doing more train­ing.

“[It’s a] mis­sion they want to do and exe­cute,” he said of Iraq’s air­men. “And we’re work­ing with them to ensure they are the best they can be.”

As the draw­down con­tin­ues, about 6,000 U.S. air­men will remain in Iraq, Reynes said. The Air Force foot­print has got­ten small­er, he said, but air­men will retain the same capa­bil­i­ties to exe­cute a vari­ety of mis­sions in sup­port of ground forces.

“Oper­a­tion New Dawn real­ly doesn’t change any­thing for our air­men,” Reynes said. “They are still going to be exe­cut­ing the same mis­sions as they were before, but there will be few­er air­men. We’re still going to be pro­vid­ing ISR [intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance].” We’re still going to be pro­vid­ing time­ly and pre­cise car­go and pas­sen­ger move­ment. And of course,” he con­tin­ued, “every day and every night there are going to be air­craft air­borne, just in case kinet­ics are need­ed, and in more cas­es, just for that pres­ence over the bat­tle­field for 24/7, 365 [days a week] over­watch.”

While doing all of this, air­men will be train­ing Iraqi air­men through­out the coun­try so they can com­plete­ly take over the mis­sion by the end of 2011, the gen­er­al said.

“Air­men will be part­ner­ing with our Iraqi broth­ers as we devel­op the Iraqi air force, as we con­tin­ue to work to devel­op those part­ner­ships and engage­ments with our Iraqi broth­ers and sis­ters as we move toward end of mis­sion,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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