U.S. Troops Help Build Afghan Air Corps
By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 24, 2008 A team of 170 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have been tasked with recruiting, training and equipping the Afghan National Army Air Corps.
“Our goal is to develop this Air Corps to be fully independent and fully operational, capable to meet (the) security requirements of Afghanistan,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Jay H. Lindell told bloggers during a teleconference yesterday from Afghanistan. Lindell is commander of Combined Air Transition Force, Combined Security Transition Command.
The air transition force is is developing mobility missions including presidential airlift, medical evacuation, casualty evacuation, and a general battlefield and logistical support capability, Lindell said.
The force is insisting on qualified recruits to populate the Air Corps, and only the top 20 percent that come through the Kabul Military Training Center are selected, he said.
New recruits tapped to be airmen or technicians must be literate, with at least an eighth grade education, he said.
While most of the Afghan airmen lack additional formal education, they are motivated and eager to learn, Lindell said.
“Their motivation and their willingness and desire to learn, and desire to be part of this National Army Air Corps, makes up for maybe their lack of education,” he said.
Even among those selected for the overall Air Corps, pilot selection requires another layer of filtering. Out of the 105 pilot candidates, Lindell said only the 48 most qualified will attend training in the United States next year.
“All have university degrees, and all are recommended by commanders, and all have passed an initial medical screening exam,” he said.
Further tests will include a flight aptitude exam and a board selection process to see who is the most qualified.
The transition force also has helped supply newer aircraft, which was an area of concern for the Afghans.
“Currently, we have 27 total aircraft with the National Army Air Corps, and we do have a campaign plan that builds this Air Corps over the next eight years,” Lindell said. “We will build it to roughly 125 aircraft throughout our campaign plan.”
The number of aircraft already has tripled since September 2007, with planes coming from the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, the United Arab Emirates, and Ukraine, Lindell said. The aircraft from the Slovak Republic, Czech Republic and Ukraine were refurbished and financed through the Afghan Security Forces Fund, while the others were donated by the United Arab Emirates, he said.
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)