SEPTEMBER 18, 2008


Rebuilding a Country: OSU Instructor Trains Iraqi Cadets

Photo of Cameron University centennial celebration.
Maj. Joe Doyle (left), an Air Force ROTC instructor at Oklahoma State University, is shown with one of his Iraqi cadets at Camp Rustamiyah just outside of downtown Baghdad. The cadet training is part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

An Air Force ROTC instructor at Oklahoma State University is splitting his classroom into two very different worlds.

Since February Maj. Joe Doyle has led the effort to train young Iraqi men at Camp Rustamiyah just outside of downtown Baghdad. The job is two-fold. While training cadets, Doyle also shows Iraqi military officials the same techniques that will one day allow them to conduct the training.

Iraqi air force cadets train for four months with the Iraqi army, and then train eight months with the U.S. Air Force program that Doyle oversees. The training includes classroom instruction that focuses on air power, follower-ship and leadership courses as well as English and physical education.

Doyle said the leadership portion is the most difficult for his students. “The leadership concept is very foreign here in the Arab world. Our ROTC candidates at OSU have an idea of leadership before our classroom discussions. For Iraqi students, leadership is a very, very new concept. Leadership here is based on family status, and corruption is prevalent,” he said.

“We want to hand off the training responsibilities to the Iraqi military as soon as possible, however, right now we are very much needed here to help rebuild the Iraqi air force that ultimately will help their fledgling government succeed,” Doyle said in a recent phone interview from Iraq.

The plan appears to be working. The 19-year Air Force veteran and his counterparts in the U.S. Army graduated and commissioned about 300 new Iraqi lieutenants on July 18. Since 2005, Rustamiyah and three other academies have graduated more than 4,800 new officers for the Iraqi armed forces.

The Road to Change

Doyle’s training ground in Iraq is the former site of Saddam Hussein’s military academy, founded in 1924 and now known as the Iraqi Military Academy at Rustamiyah.

Doyle talks about day-to-day problems. “Some days the electricity goes out while other days food is not delivered,” he said. “There are all kinds of challenges but that is just part of rebuilding a military in less than ideal circumstances.” Overall, the camp that once served as an Iraqi detention center is a good setup for training, he said.

It is rocket and mortar attacks that are “unnerving,” Doyle said. “We have no real ground attack threat here at the camp. The insurgents have shot lots of rockets and mortars at us. Luckily, they are bad shots.”

Casualties since the war started in 2003 are at their lowest. “The good guys have the momentum and more importantly, the Iraqi police and military have turned the corner to get a handle on things,” Doyle said. “There is no question that there will be more violent incidents, however, they are now fewer and further between.”

From Ice to Sand

The training exercise is far removed from Doyle’s roots. More than half his service is in officer training programs. One of his most memorable stints was as a hockey coach at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

This is the Boston native’s second tour in the Middle East. He was in Kyrgyzstan for seven months during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2005.

 “When the position in Iraq became available it sounded like something I had wanted to do for along time,” Doyle said. “I thought I might be able to come over here and do a good job.”

Happy Returns

For the next few weeks, Doyle is not focusing on his makeshift classroom in Iraq. He meets – for the first time – his daughter Emma who was born July 14 in Stillwater.

He will vacation in Cape Cod for two weeks with his spouse Holly Anderson Doyle, a 1986 graduate of Broken Arrow High School and a 1990 graduate of OSU. He’ll meet his new daughter and hang out with the couple’s three sons – Andrew, 8, Brendan, 10, and Luke, 6. Other family members will join the reunion.

Doyle’s 12-month tour ends in February 2009 when he will resume duties in Detachment 670 in Stillwater.