10/12/2010 - Kabul, Afghanistan -- October 12th is a day that the Afghan Air Force will not soon forget. The arrival of five new Afghan Lieutenants is cause for celebration in the AAF as it increases the numbers of serving officers in the rapidly growing AAF; however, these five Lieutenants are from the recently graduated female officer candidate school. The five LTs reported to Pohantoon-e-Hawayee (AAF Air School) and the Thunder Lab for training.
The female Lieutenants will be assigned to the Thunder Lab in Kabul, an English immersion program run by the NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan. The English language immersion program is designed to prepare the "future eagles" of the Afghan Air Force who are awaiting pilot training. The program includes a total immersion program in English, along with aviation and professional skill training to set up future pilots for success.
While at the Thunder Lab, the female and male Lieutenants will compete on equal terms. Additionally, the male and female officers will train shoulder to shoulder with their advisors, but will have segregated living quarters. The female Lieutenants are excited about their new training opportunities, while the Thunder Lab advisor team is also very excited to start training these amazing women.
Lt. Col. John Howard, the lead advisor to the Thunder Lab stated, "They were all extremely professional, motivated and their English is fantastic. My sense is that these women will serve as an inspiration for other potential female officers as well as keep the male Lieutenants at the top of their game."
A typical day at for the new Lieutenants at the Thunder Lab begins early at 5:15 a.m. with physical fitness. After breakfast, students receive three hours of English training or Air Force training. After lunch, they attend aviation English instruction, followed by military and professional training with an American mentor for two hours, and they even have a barracks cleaning rotation. Prayer time and dinner are followed by simulator and study time and an evening movie.
"I am excited to be here... It is my big wish, my big dream to join the air force. First, I want to be a good pilot after that an engineer," said 2nd Lt Mary.
Before being assigned to the AAF, they graduated from OCS which spanned 20 weeks. During that time, they learned basic military skills, including leadership qualities, and trained to become officers in the Afghan National Security Force. They were instructed and mentored along the way by a team of U.S. and Afghan officers and NCOs.
2nd Lt Sourya, who graduated 3rd from OCS, explained, "It was one night they have announce females can come in the Army on the TV. My father said because I had graduated high school 'You want to go?' And I said to my father 'If you let [me].' Because in Afghan culture until right now no females in the Army, but after this my father said for me it is very good, it is the first time that females can go the Army in Afghanistan especially, and he said 'You can go, you can do your job for your country, for your family and for yourself.'"
During their tour of the Thunder Lab, they couldn't hold back their excitement when they toured their future living area -- oohs, ahhs and gasps could easily be heard. The Afghan Air Force just took another step in becoming a professional, independent and fully capable air force.