TUCSON, Ariz. --
Iraqi Air Force members joined the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing to bid a final farewell to Iraqi pilot Maj. Noor Falih Hezam Al Khazaali during a memorial service here Sept. 19.
Al Khazaali died Sept. 5 after his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed near Safford, Arizona, during a training mission. He arrived at the 162nd Wing in 2016 and was in upgrade training with the 152nd Fighter Squadron’s Detachment 1.
During the memorial service, Col. Kenneth Rosson, vice commander of the 162nd Wing recounted the Iraqi Air Force milestones, from their first basic course graduate in 2012 to flying their own F-16s in combat over the skies of Iraq in 2015.
“These Airmen are now being called some of the best fighter pilots flying in the Middle East,” said Rosson.
When an Iraqi pilot arrives at the 162nd for initial qualification training, they have already been in the United States close to two years attending language and undergraduate trainings in preparation for the basic course. The Iraq program is unique in that these pilots continue through upgrade and seasoning training which requires them to be in Tucson close to another two years.
“The path to the F-16 is not an easy one, the responsibility that is levied is great and made even more daunting by the tremendous amount of time spent away from loved ones,” said Director of Operations for the 152nd Fighter Squadron Detachment 1, Lt. Col. Jason Lewis. “In the last 3 years of training, [Al Khazaali] has spent just over a month with his family. I say this, to enlighten us all on how much is sacrificed by these airmen to make Iraq a safer place for the world.”
Iraqi pilots and 162nd airmen said their final farewell to their wingman on Sept. 26, when Al Khazaali was transported home for his final resting.
The 162nd Wing is proud of the partnerships built through F-16 training here and Al Khazaali will never be forgotten. His name will be engraved on the wing’s granite memorial wall for all to see and pay tribute.
“He gave his life for God and country in preparation for battle with ISIS and any other threat that serves to alter peace and civility in Iraq. We owe our utmost reverence, for he is a true hero,” said Lewis. “Know your bothers will take it from here and will ensure your sacrifice was not made in vein.”