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Operation Enduring Freedom
An aerial view from an Afghan National Army Air Corps MI-35 Hind E helicopter piloted by U.S. Air Force Maj. Caleb Nimmo, Mi-35 team lead assigned to the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron, and Hungarian Air Force Maj. Szili ''Alex'' Sandor, an Mi-35 Hind E instructor pilot assigned to the Hungarian Operational Mentoring Team May 11, 2010, over Kabul. The joint advisor team currently flies 16 training missions a week. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez/released)
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Airman leads joint Mi-35 attack helicopter advisor team for Afghan Air Corps

Posted 5/25/2010   Updated 5/28/2010 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt Oshawn Jefferson
U.S. AFCENT Combat Camera Team

5/25/2010 - KABUL -- Flying an airframe that became an icon for helicopter pilots because of its prominence in movies like "Red Dawn" and "Rambo III," a joint team of American, Czechoslovakian and Hungarian advisors assigned to the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron are making strides helping Afghanistan National Army Air Corps Mi-35 Hind E attack helicopter pilots get into the fight.

"We are seeing the results of the teamwork of our advisors and the expanding skill of our Afghan pilots begin to pay off for the benefit of their country's security," said Maj. Caleb Nimmo, 438th AEAS director of operations and team lead for the ANAAC Mi-35 Hind E advisor program deployed from New River Marine Corps Air Station, N.C. "It's an honor to see the progress our Afghan brothers make on a daily basis and the lessons we learn from each other keep us moving in a positive direction."

The Mi-35 is a heavily-armored aircraft. The front is fitted with a 12.7 mm Yak-B Gatling gun. It also has the potential to carry up to four 57 mm KP, long-guided rocket pods for a total payload of 256 anti-tank rockets. Often called a "flying tank," the helicopter is durable, powerful and well-suited for the temperature and terrain of Afghanistan.

Czech Republic and Hungarian Operational Mentor and Liaison Team members and Combined Air Power Transition Force Airmen advise 13 ANAAC pilots on tactics, weapons firing, command and control, crew-resource management, safety, weapons loading and unloading, work ethics, NATO standards, military cultures, pre-mission planning, contact maneuvers, emergency procedures, navigation, Presidential Air Squadron escort operations, and language.

"We have our challenges, but the Afghans are hard workers, who listen and are eager to learn from our collective experiences," said Maj. Bela Lazar, Hungarian OMLT commander, deployed from the Hungarian Home Defense Force's 86th "Szolnok" Helicopter Base. "During training or mission there can be up to four or five languages being spoken (English, Dari, Russian, Hungarian and Czechoslovakian) so we have to pay close attention when we communicate with each other. So far we have worked out good procedures and everybody plays their part to be successful."

Czech Republic OMLT began ground training and limited flight training for Afghan Mi-35 crewmembers in the summer of 2008. In January 2009, Afghan Mi-35 training increased exponentially with the arrival of six refurbished helicopters

"We have been at the forefront of this training for a long time," said Capt. Martin Vanis, Czech Republic OMLT MI-35 instructor pilot deployed from the 221st Attack Helicopter Squadron based at Namest nad Oslavou, Czech Republic. "But the added knowledge of the Americans, Hungarians and the Afghans of course, has helped take this program to a new level."

One of their first milestones called for ANA Soldiers acting as forward observers for interfacing with aircrews during live-fire missions on ranges around Afghanistan. The CAPTF is assisted with the challenges of instituting close-coordination procedures that will work on the Afghan battlefield and has seen the results in combat operations

"Recently, our ANAAC MI-35 aircrews completed two milestones, first they were employed to neutralize Taliban Forces in the Baghlan Province, their first kinetic operation since the beginning of OEF," said Maj. Nimmo, who is the first American to fly the Mi-35 in combat. "The other is a mission where our Mi-35 aircrews provided armed escort to Mi-17 helicopters transporting Afghanistan National Army soldiers to a forward location. These two missions show all of our training is paying off and our aircrews are proving they are more than ready to contribute to their nation's security."

Afghan Mi-35 pilots are not new to the air frame but admit the training they have received has given them the confidence to execute their mission anywhere in Afghanistan.

"I have a solid mind to be a good pilot, but our advisors have showed us the organizational skills it takes to execute our mission in combat," said Capt. Gholam Mohaiudin, ANAAC Mi-35 pilot, who has more than 22 years of experience flying the airframe. "Teaching us to defend our friends in battle and serve our country is something I will always appreciate, we are an asset for the Afghan people and we can be an active part in the defense of our nation."

While engaging in kinetic operations, the joint mentor team plans to continue their training regimen of 16 training missions a week. Training is conducted with a focus to keep the Joint team and ANAAC Mi-35 pilots sharp when called upon.

"These Afghans are true patriots and I will probably look back on this assignment as the defining moment of my career," said Maj. Nimmo, a native of Oklahoma City, Okla. "The Mi-35 is an icon in the helicopter world, the Air Force uses the Mi-35 as the aggressor at their Red Flag weapons school at Nellis Air Force Base in Nev., and the Marine Corps uses it at the Marine Corps Air Weapons and Tactics School in Yuma, Ariz. I get to employ it as a part of a team which puts the Afghans in the fight and help them earn the security their country richly deserves."

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