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Arming point key to Afghan airpower dominance

by Staff Sgt. Justin Weaver
438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

5/18/2011 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Officials at the Kandahar Air Wing reached a milestone May 15 when they opened an Afghan Mi-17 weapons arming point here.

The officials said it's a key step towards delivering airpower dominance to both the 205th and 215th Afghan National Army Corps.

"Having the arming point allows the Afghan air force to load munitions on aircraft for in-flight use -- a critical capability for training and combat missions," said Tech. Sgt. Rachel Youkey, a 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group munitions air adviser. "The arming point is a safe place designated for loading explosives onto aircraft."

Having a safe location to load and arm the rockets is critical for the Afghan air force to conduct their missions, she said.

"Previously, NATO personnel were responsible for coordination and loading rockets on Afghan air force helicopters," Sergeant Youkey said. "Afghan air force troops were not able to assist due to their stringent safety limitations preventing them from loading with engines running, which was the only way to do it before we were able to get the arming point built."

The new arming point allows Afghan pilots the ability to fly Mi-17 armed escorts and provide close-air support, she said. Additionally, the establishment of the arming point hands over complete control of the mission to the Afghans, from the Afghan air force weapons and ammo troops here loading the Afghan weapons on Afghan helicopters to the aircrew conducting the Afghan missions.

"This is a huge step forward for Afghan air force in their journey toward self-sufficiency," Sergeant Youkey said. "Our role is to advise and assist (the Afghan air force) at Kandahar Air Wing, to help them build mission capabilities while increasing their safety, security and technical expertise. We want them to find their own way to make things work in a way that makes sense to them by providing an experienced voice in their decision-making process.

"It's rewarding when my Afghan counterparts do well on their own, because I know their success means I'm doing exactly what I need to do," she said. "The days when things click and work goes smoothly are hard earned. When it happens, it's a deep breath and a great sense of shared accomplishment. It is all about Afghans doing, being able to do, having the equipment to do and then doing it on their own."



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