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Making history: First Iraqis graduate AMMOC

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AETCNS) -- Images of suicide bombers or improvised explosive devices taking their toll on civilian and military lives in Iraq has been daily news for the past three years.

No one ever gets accustomed to seeing the videos or photos.

Two Iraqi's here, however, vowed to make a difference in the rebuilding process of their home country by serving as officers in the fledgling democracy's military. Their first step began here June 7 when they completed the Aircraft and Munitions Maintenance Officers Course at the 360th Training Squadron.

Their names and ranks are being withheld for security reasons.

One Iraqi officer said one of the things he noticed the most about his stay in Texas was the number of children playing and smiling.

"Iraqi people need help from you. (Our) children need help to give them back their smile," he said. "When I saw children play or laughing, it made me sad. We need (the United States) to help us give safety and security."

The officer said smiles and laughter will return to the children when a safe and secure Iraq is in place.

The officers began their training here in October when they attended a four-month language course. AMMOC training began in March.

The two, along with two other international and seven U.S. students, learned the maintenance aspects of aerospace ground equipment, plans and scheduling, jet engine mishap investigation and AMMOC.

There is a distinct difference between Iraqi maintenance officers and those in the United States, they said. Iraqi officers are able to get in a hangar or on a flightline alongside their technicians and repair aircraft, they said, whereas U.S. maintenance officers primarily manage.

They were very appreciative of the training, but even more so of the welcoming atmosphere instructors and students alike showed. From overcoming a language barrier to frequent invitations to eat out, they said they didn't feel like foreigners in a strange land.

Assistance from fellow students and the International Military Student Office made their time here more than a training experience.

"You are not our friends," they said, "you are family."

A shroud of secrecy veiled the officer's voyage to train here. Their whereabouts and purpose have been kept from everyone except their wives in order to protect them and their families.

But, braving this dangerous situation was well worth the new Iraq that is under construction today.

One of the officers explained a friend of his was in the Iraqi National Guard and lost both legs due to combat action. But, his friend told him as long as he has two hands he will continue to fight against the insurgency and terrorists.

That is the cause of Iraqis - to continue the fight against those who don't want peace and democracy.