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AAF graduates first upgrade training class from Shindand Flying Training Center

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Vladimir Potapenko
438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

2/17/2011 - SHINDAND, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- Two Afghan Air Force pilots graduated from the Mi-17 aircraft commander upgrade course as part of the first class of students to pass through the flying training center at Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan, Feb. 11.

The six-week course consisted of more than 65 hours of academics and 28 hours of flight training, culminating with joint exercises with Afghan National Army counterparts who were also training at Shindand.

"This course teaches everything from basic aircraft systems to employment in joint exercises with Afghan National Army troops to build a foundation of knowledge that the Afghan air force will use in the fight against insurgent elements," said Lt. Col. Jim Mueller, the commander of the 444th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. "The tools students learn here have a direct impact on the war-fighting ability of the Afghan National Security Force."

Academic training covered Mi-17 systems, Afghan regulations, command and control, air traffic control communications, operational risk management, flight planning, crew resource management and tactical employment; while flight training included pattern operations, emergency procedures, remote operations and day tactical formation employment.

"This is a comprehensive course designed to build airmanship and knowledge in our students to set the conditions for a professional, fully independent and operationally capable Afghan air force," Colonel Mueller said.

The upgrade course helps sets a new training standard and allows the AAF to continue the fight for an independent Afghanistan.

"The coordination between helicopters and infantry is a powerful weapon against insurgents," said Capt. Sean Masters, the 444th AEAS training officer, as he addressed the students. "Your training has prepared you to take the fight to the Taliban. As the first pilots to graduate from this new training, you are now the standard to which the AAF must strive to achieve."

Having graduated, the newly minted aircraft commanders next return to their home units, where Colonel Mueller said he believes they will be best employed as a source of knowledge and influence on the developing AAF pilot corps as it strives to become capable of meeting the security requirements of Afghanistan.

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