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By U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Frost

KIRKUK, Iraq – By age 15, his destiny was already set by Saddam Hussein’s regime – he was to become a fighter pilot, a necessity in the bloody war with Iran. He took the controls of a Bravo, a single engine, propeller-driven training aircraft, and performed his first solo flight before most Americans could even drive.

Today, Iraqi Air Force Maj. Abbas, his name changed in this story for security reasons, serves once again in the Iraqi Air Force, but he’s no longer asked to fly for the dictator but to fly for his country.

Abbas is an instructor pilot with the Iraqi Flying Training School in Kirkuk, Iraq, where he teaches initial pilot training to future Iraqi pilots. Like many instructor pilots who have returned to the school to teach, he was a fighter pilot under Hussein’s regime with a great deal of experience and training.

“My education was only for flying,” said Abbas, while he kept watch over a pitcher warming a batch of his “famous” chai tea. “These pilots that we have now have more education. We know everything about the weather, the sky and the airplanes.”

After he finished his education in his late teens, he began attending the Iraqi Air Force Academy in Tikrit, Iraq. Upon completing his training at the academy, Abbas was sent to France, where he learned to fly advanced fighter aircraft.

“They sent me to France to finish my education,” he said, pointing to the name patch on his chest and the stitched wings above his name. “I have the wings I earned in France.”

Abbas returned to Iraq in 1990 after the Iraq and Iran war came to an end, although missing battle is something that doesn’t seem to bother the pilot much.

“Not for the war, but because I love flying – only for that,” said Abbas about why he enjoys his duties.

“That’s not good,” he says under his breath while pouring the light brown tea into a cup before adding more chai to the pitcher, taking a break from his story. Not strong enough yet.

Upon his arrival in Iraq from France, he was placed in a squadron that flew Mirage F1 fighter aircraft.

That same year, Iraq invaded its neighbor Kuwait, triggering a response by U.S. and Coalition forces. Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm followed in early 1991.

Abbas, only a lieutenant at the time, was grounded during the war, he said. The combat missions were reserved only for higher-ranking officers.

The war ended quickly and left Iraq’s Air Force decimated, sanctions against the country and no-fly zones that kept the air force limited in the areas it could train and fly in Iraq.

Things changed quickly for the Iraqi Air Force after that, as pilots’ salaries dropped, he said.

“In 1988, all the pilots from the war with Iran loved their jobs,” said Abbas. “Saddam sent them a lot of money for flying. When you did something, he gave you a car. When you did something against Iran – shot something down – he would give you some money or a gift.”

Despite the pay changes and limited resources for the air force, Abbas’ squadron continued flying.

“In 1993 something went wrong,” he said when President Bill Clinton ordered airstrikes against Iraq in Operation Desert Fox.

“I was in Mosul, and they told me to scramble, to climb, to take off,” he said when U.S. planes entered his base’s airspace that day. “I did some combat with an F-16. He fixed his missile on me six times.”

The cat and mouse game with the American fighter ended after Abbas began descending toward his home airfield.

“He came beside me, and I saw him,” he said, pointing out that there were only 50 meters between him and the American pilot. “I saluted him, he saluted me, and he (left).”

His time in the Iraqi Air Force only lasted six more years. In 1999 Hussein had him thrown in jail and relieved from the military after the dictator thought he was planning to fly to another country with his fighter and defect. He was only jailed for one month, but he never returned to the air force.

After Coalition forces announced plans to rebuild the Iraqi Air Force, Abbas answered the call of his country.

His chai tea is complete at last. He fills three small tea glasses halfway with sugar, pours the dark brown tea into them and gives two to his American guests.

“Is it good?” he asks.

His tea isn’t the only thing that receives the praise of his peers. American advisors from the 52nd Expeditionary Flying Training Squadron, which helps train Iraqi pilots and advise the Iraqi Flight Training School, have dubbed him “Maj. Atlas” for his ability to handle many tasks at once and for the enormous role he is playing in rebuilding Iraq’s Air Force.

He instructs students on small Cessna aircraft that were purchased by the Iraqi government through Foreign Military Sales, a system that allows the Iraqi government to purchase military equipment with their own money from foreign nations, including the United States.

Although he is impressed with the strides the Iraqi Air Force has taken over the past few years, he says that he would still like to see Iraqi jet aircraft take to the skies once again.

“I am old now,” he said. “If I wait six more years for another aircraft, I don’t think that’s good for my health.”

For now, Abbas will have to stay with training the future pilots who will be piloting the jets. He doesn’t seem to care as he beams a smile across the flightline, places a red ball cap saying “Rig Boss” on his head and walks to his plane to take off for another flight over his home country of Iraq.
Here's the story about that Iraqi major that I promised. He told quite a story, and it was a pleasure to meet a former Iraqi fighter pilot that I was trained to help shoot down years ago ... What a great country ...
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Daily Deviation

Given 2008-07-31
"Just doing the job" is something a lot of people say ... But I take my job over here very seriously. Let's face it, tomorrow the helicopter I'm flying in could get shot down, the vehicle I'm driving in could get blown up or a sniper could cream me from outside the IZ. The stakes are a little higher here ... And if these are the odds I'm playing with every time I leave to cover a story - you better believe I'm bringing home some damn good pictures and a damn good story to make it worth the risks.
On March 3, 2008, twenty days before he was scheduled to return from his second tour in Iraq, Staff Sgt. Christopher S. Frost of the 377th Air Base Wing Waukesha, Wisconsin, also known as *HandBanana001 on dA, died in a crash of an Iraqi Army Mi-17 helicopter. In Iraqi Pilot Returns - Story, we get a glimpse of war we seldom see through the words of a man who lived it. It's what journalism should be. ( Featured by GeneratingHype )
:icontwilightterror369:
Twilightterror369 Featured By Owner Sep 30, 2008
great story i love writing storys but if i may ask how do you get them on here? sorry if im a bug
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:iconstampingqueen:
stampingqueen Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
An amazing piece that shows what is really going on in Iraq. From the wife of a US Marine, to the family of this young man, my deepest condolences. Sending our loved ones into harms way is never easy. Tales like this show that they are making a difference and the honor and pride they feel shines through.
If only the media would show us these stories. It is an honor to read this tale and to hear the story of this young man.
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:iconlilithlairpoetry:
LilithLairPoetry Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2008
RIP friend!
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:iconandshesmiles:
andshesmiles Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008
I've never seen a posthumous DD before, but this one deserves it.
Reply
:iconpanda-jamican-pie:
panda-jamican-pie Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
a story that task risk, but a lesson that build stronger lives of friendship.

i am sad you'll never see these words.
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:iconmasque-de-mort:
Masque-De-Mort Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Student Traditional Artist
Rest In Peace brother...
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:iconarirish2:
ARIrish2 Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008
When I first glimpsed this in the DDs, I thought 'oh God, not another Iraq story, blah blah blah'. Then I looked a little closer.

This is an utterly fascinating and completely human piece of work. You really captured a sense of his character here, and the atmosphere of both his past, and the scenario of the interview. I can't find any fault with it. Excellent writing, a great piece of journalism, and a well-deserved DD. Congratulations.
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:iconjagged-1:
jagged-1 Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
great DD
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:iconphoneix-faerie:
Phoneix-Faerie Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
Rest in peace, amazing journalism
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:iconspamkiller:
Spamkiller Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Rest in peace...

And thank you for giving us this. :+fav:
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:iconthemandalorian:
Themandalorian Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
RIP
Reply
:iconwardlarson:
WardLarson Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008
Reply
:icongaioumonbatou:
GaioumonBatou Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008
I'm so glad Bill chose to feature this in the end. I think it a wonderful tribute to you.
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:iconbasmah999:
Basmah999 Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008
a very thought provoking piece of journalism. a well deserved DD.
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:iconmeropa:
Meropa Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
RIP... hope you find your peace! :rose: :rose:
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:iconotacon144:
Otacon144 Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Student Filmographer
May you find peace.
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:iconsd-stock:
sd-stock Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
I'm :+fav:ing this. How can I not, he lived less than an hour away from me. How tragic.
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:iconzjoriz:
zJoriz Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008
Amazing story. Sad the author died!
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:iconmad-but-happy:
Mad-But-Happy Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Professional Filmographer
This is what journalism should be. Fantastic story. Congrats on the DD!
Reply
:iconpapirazzi:
papirazzi Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
really amazing story, so sad to hear about the loss of *HandBanana001
Reply
:iconsergeantchrishayward:
SergeantChrisHayward Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008
A piece truly deserving of Daily Deviation. Fantastic piece of work, and an amazing story. :salute:
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:icont-ray-4real:
T-Ray-4real Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2008
Wow, what a great story. This really shows a whole other side to it that most Americans need to see.
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:iconresuki:
resuki Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
I totally agree with you. :salute:
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:iconlost-angle:
lost-angle Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
I love hearing stories like this, so much media attention in Canada and the US is focused on the fighting and the dying in the Middle East, there is so little attention given to the rebuilding efforts that are being made. My father and brother are officers in the Canadian AF and I have several friends who are enlisted in the Canadian and American AF. I know the efforts that are being taken towards rebuilding the Middle East, and I love stories like this one that show that the Middle Eastern people are just people like the rest of us.

I really enjoyed reading this and it touched me. Thank you for writing it.
Reply
:iconlost-angle:
lost-angle Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
sorry for the double post, my net was being weird.
Reply
:iconlost-angle:
lost-angle Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
I love hearing stories like this, so much media attention in Canada and the US is focused on the fighting and the dying in the Middle East, there is so little attention given to the rebuilding efforts that are being made. My father and brother are officers in the Canadian AF and I have several friends who are enlisted in the Canadian and American AF. I know the efforts that are being taken towards rebuilding the Middle East, and I love stories like this one that show that the Middle Eastern people are just people like the rest of us.

I really enjoyed reading this and it touched me. Thank you for writing it.
Reply
:iconquietwatcher:
QuietWatcher Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2008
Wonderfully written. I only wish more stories like this were put on news stations and in papers.
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:iconlost-angle:
lost-angle Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
yes, I agree.
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:icondisc-photography:
DISC-Photography Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
Wow, reading this article on Maj. Abbas makes me happy I'm aiming to become a commercial pilot. Originally I wanted to become an air force pilot and join a fighter squadron however my eyesight wasn't 20/20. As a last option I decided to become an commercial pilot so I can fly internationally.

I bet being an flight instructor for their country and seeing rookie pilots achieving their dreams of becoming fully fledge pilots can be a great feeling.


Thank you for creating this article HandBanana001
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:iconhandbanana001:
HandBanana001 Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2008   Photographer
No problem for the article... I had fun writing it.

You can still fly planes in the Air Force .. They'll teach you to fly them, and then you can go and fly all the Delta MD-88s you want...
Reply
:icondisc-photography:
DISC-Photography Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
I can't wait for your next article.
Reply
:iconflukiew:
FlukieW Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2008
This is a great GREAT story! good job and keep them coming!
Reply
:iconnucleardruid:
NuclearDruid Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008   Photographer
Amazing story, truly amazing. It would definitely be great to meet this person. Great job writing this :)
Reply
:iconhandbanana001:
HandBanana001 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008   Photographer
It was amazing to meet him. I made sure to tell him how much respect he had in my book ... He seemed kind of surprised how much I looked up to him ...
Reply
:iconnucleardruid:
NuclearDruid Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008   Photographer
It seems hard for a lot of people, who've served, that people look up to them. I know it'd be hard for me, and I am sure it would be hard for you. I look up to you very much, believe it or not.
Reply
:iconhandbanana001:
HandBanana001 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008   Photographer
"Just doing the job" is something a lot of people say ... But I take my job over here very seriously. Let's face it, tomorrow the helicopter I'm flying in could get shot down, the vehicle I'm driving in could get blown up or a sniper could cream me from outside the IZ. The stakes are a little higher here ... And if these are the odds I'm playing with every time I leave to cover a story - you better believe I'm bringining home some damn good pictures and a damn good story to make it worth the risks.
Reply
:iconnucleardruid:
NuclearDruid Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008   Photographer
Not to be a suck up, but it really is awesome talking to you. Always great input, and I am glad you are as dedicated as you are.
Reply
:iconiraqifreak:
iraqifreak Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008
:happycry: I loved every bit of your story!
Iraqi Pilots Rock!! :clap:
Reply
:iconhandbanana001:
HandBanana001 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008   Photographer
No kidding they do. The pilots are fun as hell to talk to and mess with. Most of them don't like getting their pictures taken, because they're afraid the images will get into the wrong hands .... But most of them know me enough by now to just come up to me when they see me with a big smile and say, "So you're giving these to al Jazeera, right??"
Reply
:iconiraqifreak:
iraqifreak Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008
hahahhaa, damn Iraqis are fun, you must be having loads of fun!
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:iconhandbanana001:
HandBanana001 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008   Photographer
I'm having more fun than I should be ... that's for sure.
Reply
:iconiraqifreak:
iraqifreak Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008
I'm not sure if you're being sarcastic or not, its kinda hard to tell over the internet, either way, I'm glad to hear that! :boogie:
Reply
:iconhandbanana001:
HandBanana001 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2008   Photographer
No sarcasm at all... I realized today on the Iraqi C-130 that I was choosing to have a conversation with four Iraqis rather than talk to my American buddy next to me ... Man, you guys have some cool cell phones out here ...
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:iconiraqifreak:
iraqifreak Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2008
hahahaha sure we do!! getting the latest cell is a must in Iraq, after 35 years of deprivation we lust for technology!! :drool:
Reply
:iconhandbanana001:
HandBanana001 Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2008   Photographer
LOL!
Reply
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