Aerial gunner trains Afghans on aircrew responsibilities
Tech. Sgt. Christian Corella, 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group aerial gunner adviser, discusses flight plans with Afghan pilot, Maj. Toryalai Aziz, while supplies are loaded into the back of an Mi-17 Helicopter for an emergency resupply flight through western Afghanistan, Nov 11, 2011. The U.S. and Afghan flight crews provided supplies to a remote Afghan Border Patrol outpost. Corella is deployed from the 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nev., and a native of El Paso, Texas. (U.S. Air Force Photo/SrA Tyler Placie)
by Senior Airman Patrick McKenna
U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
11/22/2011 - HERAT, Afghanistan -- Tech. Sgt. Christian Corella has been an aerial gunner for more than eight years. He cross trained into the career field after his first four years as an Airman because he said he wanted to do something more.
"I'd watch aircraft take off and knew I wanted to be a part of that," said Corella, 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group Detachment 1 MI-17 aerial gunner adviser. "I wanted to be a part of a more operational mission. I wanted to have an impact."
Now, Corella, on his fifth deployment to Afghanistan, has a different mission than those previous four. He has the task of advising his Afghan students on the many responsibilities they have as an aircrew member.
"I teach them how to operate aircraft weapons, how to protect themselves, their crew, their formation and the people on the ground they're responsible for," said Corella, who's deployed from Nellis AFB, Nev., and a native of El Paso, Texas. "I teach them tactics, techniques and proper ways to engage threats. We want to protect people we work with, ourselves and our allies. I want to teach them that mindset."
Corella also emphasizes to his Afghan counterparts the importance of taking care of the passengers on board. Ensuring they're safely in and out of the helicopter, properly seated and to check that all cargo is secured correctly.
Lastly, Corella says maybe his most important lessons to the Afghans focus on how as air crew members, they are responsible to communicate with a range of people on any given mission and how important it is for them to be a good teammate.
"I'm trying to teach them to be professional aircrew members," said Corella. "On any given day, they need to talk to flight engineers, pilots, passengers, ground personnel, landing zone security, and flight medics making sure they're passing up patient status. It's more being a professional aircrew member than it is being a tactician. I still hit on that, teach that."
While this may be Corella's first deployment as an adviser, he has prior experience as an instructor and evaluator for rotary aircrafts. He has trained with Soldiers, Marines and Sailors and says that while the students and environment may be different, the basic concept of getting his lessons across hasn't changed.
"Teaching is teaching," said Corella. "The key is being able to talk to students and show them credible information and to know what you're talking about by doing your own homework prior to starting each lesson. You have to be professional whether it's an American or Afghan student."
In the short time Corella has been at the 838 AEAG Det. 1, he's hit the ground running and impressed his leadership with what he brings to the table.
Corella brings a lot of good experience to the job here," said Maj. Karl Seekamp, 838 AEAG Det. 1 commander. "He's been a very good adviser. He's very mission focused."
Seekamp explained how shortly after arriving, Corella led the training of 100 Afghan commandos on air assault type procedures. He trained them on how to ingress and egress a landing zone quickly from the MI-17 helicopter.
"He jumped right in and took control of the training," Seekamp said. "He used some Dari he knew to explain things to the commandos in their own language. He worked well with getting the commando leadership to lead their troops in training, making it a more equal partnership in the training."
So far, Corella has been pleased with the progress his Afghan students have made in his short time here.
"Every student arrives here with different levels of experience and knowledge," Corella said. "Some of them surprise you out in the aircraft. The new guys we just got in. are young and motivated. They're learning and already making calls in the helicopter."
This is the ninth deployment in Corella's 12 year Air Force career. He has an 11 year old son and a supportive family back in the states. While it's tough being away from them so often, he says this experience has been a rewarding one and hopes the lessons he instills have a lasting impact.
"I come from the rescue mission where you pick up anyone who needs help," Corella said. "We're willing to do something most people aren't. We're willing to put ourselves in harm's way for others and bring people back. I'm trying to instill in these Afghans the rescue mission motto 'that other's may live.'"