Commentary by Senior Master Sgt. Brian Kruzelnick
802nd Air Expeditionary Adviser Squadron
1/12/2012 - SHINDAND AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- Maintenance advisors of the 802 Air Expeditionary Adviser Squadron utilized a strong core of motivated Afghan maintainers to develop an aircraft generation capability for the Shindand Air Wing. A team of five select members of the Afghan air force maintenance group passed a quality assurance evaluation targeting high-frequency aircraft generation tasks: servicing, inspections, and aircraft launch and recovery of the Mi-17 helicopter.
The month-long training was built around classroom instruction on aircraft systems, hands-on operational checks, and accomplishing inspections per the aircraft task cards. At the conclusion of training, AAF maintainers were evaluated by the contractor's technical inspector for quality assurance.
The Afghan airmen quickly mastered aircraft servicing and launch and recovery procedures. Within two weeks, they were proficient enough to accomplish these tasks without direction from advisors. The most robust aircraft generation task, preflight inspection, took more time to perfect. Preflight inspections are accomplished prior to each flight, covering every aircraft system to ensure airworthiness of the aircraft. After extensive classroom instruction and accomplishing preflight inspection steps shoulder-to-shoulder with advisors, the Afghan maintainers were ready for the capstone event.
The AAF team was thorough and meticulous as they inspected, tested and verified every system on the Mi-17 per the preflight inspection task cards. The work performed by the AAF maintainers was observed and evaluated by advisors and the Technical Inspector. Their performance was outstanding and the AAF airmen were certified on the task.
Obtaining this level of proficiency is impressive, but it was not achieved without clearing several obstacles along the way. Among advisors and Afghan members, there were seven different native languages. Breaking the instructions down into basic terms and building a strong rapport were just a few things needed to clear this hurdle. Another issue was instilling a sense of urgency and timeliness. Improvements were shown in these areas as more structure and order were incorporated into the daily routine.
Training has not stopped for these airmen. They have now advanced onto more complex aircraft systems and tasks while undergoing train-the-trainer efforts for the AAF maintenance group. The upgraded AAF members are working with advisors to train the next core of maintainers. Their enthusiasm and knowledge are paying dividends as they seek additional opportunities to conduct maintenance training for other members of the Shindand Air Wing. These Afghan air force airmen are demonstrating great pride and ownership in the overall Mi-17 helicopter mission and are the foundation for future successes.