KABUL, Afghanistan – Seven Afghan Air Force Lieutenants have been selected to attend the first undergraduate pilot training held exclusively inside Afghanistan in more than 30 years.
PilotsAfghan Air Force pilot candidates stand at attention during an official ceremony recognizing their efforts in the Afghan Air Force Conference Center, Kabul, Afghanistan, November 17, 2011. The seven students will leave for Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan in December where they will begin the first undergraduate pilot training program to be held inside Afghan borders in more than 30 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Smith)
The seven airmen were honored in a ceremony at the Afghan Conference Center on the AAF compound today and will now leave for Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan where they will start their journey towards becoming pilots in the AAF.
Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan Commander, attended the ceremony, as did Maj. Gen. Mohammad Dawran Masoomi, Commander of the Afghan National Army Air Force, Maj. Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak, AAF Commander and Brig. Gen. Tim Ray, Commanding General, NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan and Commander, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing.
“It is very difficult to become an Air Force pilot. Only a few can meet the demands of flying military aircraft. There are physical, mental and leadership talents required,” said Bolger as he addressed the graduates.
The pilot candidates, from provinces throughout Afghanistan, are all graduates of either the National Military Academy of Afghanistan or Initial Officer Training held in the United Kingdom and since graduation have been enrolled in the Kabul English Language Training Center where they’ve studied and developed the English language needed to fly.
In addition to learning English at KELTC, they also live at Thunder Lab on the AAF compound. Thunder Lab is a program designed to help supplement the student’s English skills and improve their officership, aviation terminology and improve their leadership.
One of the honorees, 2nd Lt. Khan Agha, addressed his class, Thunder Lab mentors and AAF members in attendance about the significance of the occasion.
“We have spent several months in Thunder Lab improving our English skills, because English is the primary language for aviation,” Agha said. “Since all of the instruction at pilot training will be in English, it is important that we are prepared to understand the English language. Thunder Lab has given us this opportunity. Thunder Lab has not only allowed us to enhance our English but it has also taught us about leadership, team work and professionalism.”
Having something in common with the soon-to-be pilot trainees, the commander of the 438th AEW, spoke candidly to the students offering them words of encouragement as they begin their journey of flying an Afghan aircraft.
“To the graduates, you have proven your capability through hard work and determination and in doing so, you will now have the opportunity to begin a very special journey…to become a pilot,” said Ray.
According to Shindand officials, the AAF recently accepted delivery of nine new aircraft that will be used to train the AAF’s newest pilot candidates. Pilot candidates will receive approximately 60 hours of academic instruction and flight screening in the Cessna 182T prior to beginning flight training.
The students tracked to rotary wing aircraft will receive 380 hours of academic, simulator and flight instruction in the MD-530F and those tracked to fixed wing aircraft, will receive 470 hours of academic, simulator and flight instruction in the C-182T and Cessna 208B, aviation experts said.