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GA brings lift to troops in Iraq

While overseas, these troops used what little free time they had to take a private pilot ground school class and even complete the written exam while overseas.

Military officials stationed at the Kuwait Naval Base; Joint Base Balad in Iraq; and Kirkuk, Iraq, taught private pilot ground school courses for the troops. Some went as far as becoming test administrators so that the troops could take their exams while still deployed.

Lt. j.g. Greg Skyles and Capt. Chris Kleinhenz of the Air Force created a private pilot ground school class at Joint Base Balad for 25 Air Force, Army, and Navy personnel.

“Many students had been dreaming of becoming a private pilot but never had the time to take lessons,” Kleinhenz recently wrote to AOPA while deployed. “Without the daily distractions of life back home, they could focus on their jobs here and learning how to become a private pilot. Plus, they just couldn’t beat the cost—free!”

The two-hour classes, which took place each Tuesday and Saturday night from Aug. 26 through Nov. 1, weren’t like the typical private pilot ground school, even though Kleinhenz, who is a pilot for SkyWest Airlines and a Gold Seal flight instructor, created the syllabus from lessons and presentations he used when he owned a small flight school.

“For most pilots, taking the class was a great way to keep their minds engaged and also to provide something unique to study away from their daily jobs/missions,” Kleinhenz wrote. “However, we are at combat and occasionally the base would receive incoming mortars or rockets while the class was being held—quite a unique experience!”

Combat distractions aside, the class was still structured uniquely for the troops.

They learned about aerodynamics from a fighter pilot, radio communications from a vice wing commander, and weather theory and products from a weather officer. And the class toured the airfield’s ATC tower and radar approach control.

December 19, 2008

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