John Coote MBE “Four Months in Baghdad,” a talk given on 30th May 2024

John shared a fascinating account of his experience living and working in the Green Zone in Baghdad for four months in 2008. Wing Commander John Coote MBE RAF (Retired) served in the RAF for nearly 37 years, from 1972 to 2009. Initially, he worked as a frontline navigator on Vulcan B2s and Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft. He also worked in research and development and was a MOD staff officer.

During the twilight of his RAF career, from April 2008 to July 2008, he provided advice to the head of the Iraqi Air Force in collaboration with the Head of the Coalition Air Force Training Team to aid in its development.

The Iraqi Air Force (IQAF) was established in 1931 during British control in Iraq. It peaked after the Iran–Iraq War, which concluded in 1988. However, it suffered a decline during the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), and its remaining forces were destroyed during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The IQAF was rebuilt following the invasion, and the United States provided much of its training and aircraft.

The Green Zone was the safest area in Baghdad, enclosed by high concrete blast walls, T-walls, and barbed wire fences, with restricted entry controlled by Coalition troops. During John’s time there, the Green Zone was subjected to almost daily rocket and mortar fire, causing civilian and military casualties.

John joined BWPS in 2014. He became Treasurer in 2016 and then Chairman from 2018 to 2022, taking the Society forward and keeping us together through the pandemic years. John moved to Surrey shortly after he gave this talk.