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Afghanistan National Army Air Corps stands up new wing at Kandahar

by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Kapinos
U.S. Air Force Central combat camera team

10/8/2009 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- Afghan government officials and religious leaders, along with senior officers from both Afghan and coalition forces stood up the Afghanistan National Army Air Corps second wing here in a dedication ceremony Oct. 5.

The wing, based at Kandahar, hosts rotary wing aircraft and supports multiple detachments around the region.

The ANAAC's other wing is based in Kabul, the nation's capitol. Combined, the air corps now has two rotary wing squadrons, one fixed wing squadron and a presidential airlift squadron.

The new wing recently saw the arrival of three Mi-35 Hind attack helicopters at the base for weapons training and will eventually be able to provide escort for Afghan transport helicopters.

The primary mission of those transport helicopters is battlefield mobility, moving cargo and passengers from major bases such as Kandahar out to detachments or training facilities. With the addition of Afghan attack platforms, missions requiring escort for transports can now be done by ANAAC assets instead of coalition aircraft.

The ability to support their own operations and be a part of the larger effort is important to the Afghan commanders.

"The Afghan Air Corps has a significant role in the fight here in the region," said Gen. Mohammad Dawran, ANAAC commander. "The corps' priorities are moving troops and supplies to where they are needed, helping civilians in need, and being an equal partner in the international coalition effort."

General Dawran expressed those sentiments standing in front of a contingent of Afghan Army and Air Corps personnel. Behind them, representing the current air corps assets were an Mi-35 and Mi-17 helicopter, and an AN-32B aircraft similar to the C-27 Spartan, which was previously flown by American pilots. C-27s are slated to be sent to Afghanistan in the near future, and will be part of the total inventory according to the general.

"The air corps is in the progress of modernizing its aircraft," said General Dawran. "We are very grateful for the helicopters and airplanes donated to us by our international friends."

The ANAAC is currently working with Air Force and Army mentors to further enhance their mission capabilities and skills. There are also approximately 60 Afghan pilots attending English language and flight training in the United States.

Echoing many of the statements given to the crowd by a myriad of speakers during the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Michael R. Boera, representing the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Air Force Central command, commented on the success the air corps has had in establishing the new wing at Kandahar.

"Building an air corps in the middle of a war is difficult," said General Boera. "It is like building an airplane in flight."

"However, today is truly an historic day, both for the Afghanistan National Army Air Corps and for the country of Afghanistan," he said. "It has been a challenge, but I congratulate you on your success here at Kandahar and wish you more continued success in the future."

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