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Largest hangar in the region completed in Taji

An Iraqi Gazelle helicopter is dwarfed by the size of the Iraqi Army Aviation Command’s newest maintenance hangar.  At more than 240 feet long and 50 feet tall, the hanger is the largest maintenance hangar in Iraq and the largest clear-span building in the entire Middle East.  (US Air Force photo by TSgt Randy Redman, released)

An Iraqi Gazelle helicopter is dwarfed by the size of the Iraqi Army Aviation Command’s newest maintenance hangar. At more than 240 feet long and 50 feet tall, the hanger is the largest maintenance hangar in Iraq and the largest clear-span building in the entire Middle East. (US Air Force photo by TSgt Randy Redman)

Brig. Gen. Anthony Rock, 321st Air Expeditionary Wing commander, and Iraq Training and Advisory Mission director, addresses the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Taji Jan. 17.  The massive aircraft hangar is a $9.8 million project that began in 2009. (US Air Force Photo by TSgt Randy Redman, released)

Brig. Gen. Anthony Rock, 321st Air Expeditionary Wing commander, and Iraq Training and Advisory Mission director, addresses the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony in Taji Jan. 17. The massive aircraft hangar is a $9.8 million project that began in 2009. (US Air Force Photo by TSgt Randy Redman)

Cranes stand ready to continue work on the aircraft maintenance hangar in Taji in 2010.  The Iraqi Army Aviation Command held a ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 17 to formally begin operations in the maintenance facility which has been in the works since 2009.  (Courtesy photo)

Cranes stand ready to continue work on the aircraft maintenance hangar in Taji in 2010. The Iraqi Army Aviation Command held a ribbon cutting ceremony Jan. 17 to formally begin operations in the maintenance facility which has been in the works since 2009. (Courtesy photo)

An Iraqi construction crew unloads pallets of equipment for the aircraft maintenance hangar in Taji.  The massive aircraft hangar is a $9.8 million project that began in 2009. (Courtesy photo)

An Iraqi construction crew unloads pallets of equipment for the aircraft maintenance hangar in Taji. The massive aircraft hangar is a $9.8 million project that began in 2009. (Courtesy photo)

TAJI -- The Iraqi Army Aviation Command held a ribbon cutting ceremony here Jan. 17 to formally begin operations in their newest maintenance facility.

The massive aircraft hangar is a $9.8 million project that began in 2009. The collaboration between the IqAAC and the United States provided a maintenance hangar large enough for current and growing future aviation mission requirements.

"At more than 240 feet long and 50 feet tall, the hangar is the largest maintenance hangar in Iraq and the largest clear-span building in the entire Middle East," said Capt. Christopher Beaver, 321st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Advisory Group chief who worked closely with the Iraqis during the construction as an advisor.

Captain Beaver said the hangar was built by a local Iraqi company and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with Air Force advisors monitoring the project, advocating requirements on behalf of Iraqis.

"As advisors, we all know the lasting impact and full results of our efforts today won't be seen for years to come. So it's always satisfying to have such a present and visual reminder today of the progress our Iraqi friends are making," said the captain.

Staff Sgt. Bryan Washington is currently deployed as a civil engineering advisor for the 321st EMSAG, and has been working on this project for his entire deployment.

"When I first arrived it was only half finished. A lot of the major issues we faced involved getting the materials delivered here to Taji. Once we got over that, the contractors worked very hard to get everything done and working," said Sergeant Washington. "To be able to hand this over to the Iraqis and for them to have a fully operational facility is an amazing feeling."

Lt. Col. Ralph Okubo Jr., 721st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander, said the hangar bay is large enough to support multiple airframes and activities that have a logical work flow relationship simultaneously, and is part of a larger complex that includes numerous offices and maintenance shops.

The corps of engineers is also managing the construction of an air traffic control tower, a bulk fuel station and a squadron operations building, all located at Taji Air Force Base. Each of these facilities is expected to be completed and fully operational before Dec. 31st, when all U.S. troops are expected to withdraw from Iraq.

Tech. Sgt. Rickie Jones is currently deployed as an advisor with the 721st AEAS at Taji. His job here is to help the Iraqi military to move into this new facility, and to get the right people in the right places, doing the right jobs.

Sergeant Jones said Iraqi maintainers will use the new hangar to make several modifications to their helicopters to bring the communications equipment into alignment with other military platforms. In other words, to make the helicopter radios talk to the ground radios, increasing military capabilities and in turn, a making the country safer and more secure.

"In the future, their aircraft are going to have bigger weapons. This hangar has a weapons shop in it where they can perform back-shop maintenance. This will give them the same capabilities as the U.S. Air Force," said Tech. Sgt. Bryan Felix, 721st AEAS advisor.

Up until this point, the IqAF and IqAAC were working out of a very small hangar that could only fit one aircraft at a time. All additional critical maintenance was conducted on the tarmac which could be a hindrance due to the amount of aircraft at the air base.

"This maintenance hangar is just part of our efforts to do everything we can to hunt down terrorists wherever they may be," said the IqAAC deputy commander (name withheld).

Brig. Gen. Anthony Rock, 321st Air Expeditionary Wing commander, and Iraq Training and Advisory Mission - Air Force director, said the ribbon-cutting ceremony was a celebration of the partnership the building symbolizes.

"It represents the many Iraqi and U.S. Airmen that stand tall and proud. Under this roof you will grow your youngest skilled maintenance technicians, develop your future managers, and produce an autonomous aircraft maintenance organization," said General Rock. "We will work with you as brothers to make this dream a reality."