News>First Afghan pilot class in 30 years kicks off in at Shindand
Coalition partners stand in formation Dec. 10, 2011, during a ceremony at Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan, that marked the beginning of the first undergraduate pilot training held exclusively inside Afghanistan in more than 30 years. (Italian air force photo by/Capitano Cristoforo Russo)
Afghan air force commander Maj. General Abdul Wahab Wardak during a ceremony Dec. 10, 2011, at Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan, that marked the beginning of the first undergraduate pilot training held exclusively inside Afghanistan in more than 30 years. (U.S Air Force photo by/1st Lt. Joel Cooke)
by Tech. Sgt, Jeremy Larlee
438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
12/12/2011 - SHINDAND AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- In the machinery of a dominant air force, the pilot is the tip of the spear. The pilot has the ability and means to strike fear into enemy forces and the job requires years of intensive training for those who answer the call of aviation.
The Afghan air force took a huge step in forming the tip of its spear here Dec. 10 during a ceremony that marked the beginning of the first undergraduate pilot training held exclusively inside Afghanistan in more than 30 years. The first class will consist of seven Afghan air force lieutenants.
More than 200 Afghan and Coalition personnel attended the ceremony.
One of the speakers at the event was Col. John Hokaj, commander of the 838th Air Expeditionary Air Advisory Group. The colonel spoke to the crowd about the historic Pearl Harbor attack. He said it was an example of how instrumental airpower can be to a nation's defense.
"This week marks an aviation event that changed the course of history as the U.S. suffered a surprise air attack in 1941," he said. "Airpower can swiftly deliver destruction on a massive scale. It can also be used to protect and provide relief. A full understanding of the importance of airpower is a lesson that must not be forgotten and its use as an agent of government must be precise and professional."
The colonel said this assignment has been the most unique, challenging and exciting job he has had in his career. He said that his group was more than ready to accept the challenge of training the lieutenants and he challenged them to make their mark in their countries' history.
"The objective of my organization remains constant," he said. "Set the conditions for irreversible transition to full Afghan security responsibility and leadership. Today's ceremony marks a historic step towards achieving that goal. Make this a history your children will be proud of."
Ahmad Shah Belizad, Afghan parliament member from Herat, spoke at the ceremony about how important the pilot training is for the welfare of his country.
"Afghanistan is a country that has been hard hit by warfare," he said. "Today is a chance provided by the coalition forces to get stronger and we need to grasp that golden opportunity."
The pilot candidates, from provinces throughout Afghanistan, are graduates from the National Military Academy of Afghanistan as well as Initial Officer Training, held in the United Kingdom and since graduation have been enrolled in the Kabul English Language Training Center where they've studied and developed the English language needed to fly.
Following the ceremony, one of the seven lieutenants spoke about how honored he was for the opportunity to become a pilot. 2nd Lt. Khan Agha was sporting a smile when he talked about the chance to take to the skies as an aviator.
"I'm really excited about flying," he said it is not something that everyone can do. It's an honor for me to be here to receive this training. The coalition forces have been great in helping in helping us get to this point."
Agha and the other lieutenants also assisted in building the classes' temporary classroom area. Group leadership said this was done on purpose so that they would have a sense of ownership of their training.
After the ceremony, distinguished visitors were given a tour of the classroom area and flight simulator the students will be using.
Orin Osmon, an instructor pilot for the course, was on hand to answer question during this tour. He said couldn't wait to dive in and start teaching his new students.
"I'm very excited about this," he said. "This is a lot of responsibility that I do not want to shirk from at all."
The pilot said that the training will last for about a year and will be very similar to a curriculum that would be offered in the United States.
He said aviation has been a lifelong passion for him and he can't wait to welcome the lieutenants into the fold.
"It will be a joy helping somebody else become what I wanted to become all my life," he said "As a young boy I wanted to become a pilot and I accomplished that. I want to help these young people get there as well."
Osmon said his goal is to shape the Afghans into good self-sustaining and competent pilots.
Pilot candidates will receive approximately 60 hours of academic instruction and flight screening in the Cessna 182T prior to beginning flight training.
The students tracked to rotary wing aircraft will receive 380 hours of academic, simulator and flight instruction in the MD-530F and those tracked to fixed wing aircraft will receive 470 hours of academic, simulator and flight instruction in the C-182T and Cessna 208B aviation experts said.
Hokaj summed up the difficulties the students will face as he challenged them to excel during the last part of his speech at the ceremony.
"Members of this first Afghan air force pilot training class," he said. "Commit yourself to your studies. The wings you seek are earned, not given. Aviation is an unforgiving profession. It does not grant favors or penalties based on who you know or where you were born. It is only concerned with ability. Set lofty goals and work hard to achieve them. Your success is completely within your control."
(Capt. Jamie Humphries, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs contributed to this story.)
12/16/2011 9:04:21 AM ET Awesome. I cannot wait for this to go completely down the tubes like everything else we're wasting our people time, energy and money on in this waste of a country. Hey at least this class didn't open fire on anyone.
David, Washington DC
12/15/2011 4:33:22 PM ET While this is a nice story why should the United States train fund and equip and Afghan Air Force The Afghan Army can fight the war against the Taliban and al-Qaida via the ground. Neither the Taliban nor AQ have air assets. Yes- it would give the Afghan military a competitive advantage but in a cost benefit analysis it is not worth billions of US tax dollars. While DoD is cutting defense programs and downsizing I would rather spend those tax dollars to sustain our military not the Afghans. Furthermore if air assets are needed the US can provide that type of specialized support. It maintains our pilots proficiency levels flight hours per month and is significantly LESS expensive to train up the Afghans. President Karzai doesnt want an Air Force for the war against the Taliban or AQ he wants it as a deterrent to Pakistan Iran and other counties . If the Afghans want an Air Force-let them pay for it. which they cant-they have NO money and will continue to want
12/14/2011 2:25:48 PM ET John you're wrong. It is Shindand and the writer never uses Shindad.
12/14/2011 1:53:52 PM ET Is it Shindand or Shindad? You use both.