KABUL, Afghanistan --
The Afghan Air Force achieved a major milestone on their path to sustainability Nov. 5 at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
That morning, an Afghan aircrew walked out to their C-130 and briefed in preparation for their first-ever all-Afghan C-130 training sortie. After the briefing, the crew started engines and taxied out while being marshalled by an Afghan maintainer.
Both the aircrews and maintainers were being encouraged and cheered on by their respective U.S. advisors. As the aircraft took off, the advisors of the 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron looked on with pride at how far their counterparts have come.
This Afghan-led training sortie was a major feat, accomplished by the only C-130 crew in the Afghan Air Force and during a time of heavy combat-related operations. The training flight took place just over a year since the first All-Afghan crew flew its first-ever operational mission in this aircraft.
While the C-130 conducted its training sortie, U.S. advisors conducted training of Afghan flight engineer and loadmaster candidates on other C-130 aircraft on the ramp. They practiced engine start procedures, checklist discipline and loading operations.
This too is significant, as in-country initial training of C-130 aircrew was not originally a part of the Train, Advise, Assist mission. This “in-house” training became a necessity due to the immediate need for more Afghan C-130 crewmembers and the length of the U.S.-based training pipeline.
While U.S.-based training is the ideal solution, and will continue to be the primary conduit for Afghan aircrew training, the advisors’ ability to conduct this training locally is a testament to their skill and resourcefulness.
Upon returning from its training sortie, flown as an upgrade flight for an Afghan aircraft commander candidate, advisors proudly looked on as the Afghan C-130 instructor pilot debriefed the student with authority, knowledge and the perfect balance of encouragement and correction.
The student had flown well, and yet aircrew members from any nation understand there is always room for improvement. The successful sortie had effectively highlighted Afghan determination to improve and succeed, and took them one enormous step closer to becoming a professional, capable and sustainable Air Force.