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AETC sees first pilot production from new Afghanistan schoolhouse

by Nathan Simmons
Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

11/2/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- The new fixed-wing pilot schoolhouse in Afghanistan at Shindand Air Base, Herat Province, graduated its first three fixed-wing pilots this month, the first to be produced in Afghanistan in more than 30 years -- a major milestone for the U.S. and Afghan Air Forces.

Three Afghan air force first lieutenants became the first pilots to complete the entire fixed-wing program in country since the schoolhouse was established in December 2011. The pilots completed undergraduate pilot training in Cessna 182 and 208 aircraft, and upon completion of copilot initial qualification training, these new Afghan pilots will become operational C-208 copilots for the Afghan air force.

Traditionally, pilots of U.S. allies are trained stateside, but Afghan training program manager Albert Zuniga said pilot production in Afghanistan was important for rebuilding the fledgling Afghan air force. Training in Afghanistan also ensures the schooling is tailored for the aircraft and environment in which the new Afghan pilots will be operating.

"The Afghans were coming through the (stateside) pipeline here for some time, because indigenous capability did not exist," Zuniga said. "We're going to be able to produce many more Afghan pilots now that the Shindand schoolhouse is up and running."

While the pilot training program in the continental United States produced 21 Afghan pilots in the last three years, the school at Shindand Air Base is primed to produce 38 more fixed-wing pilots in the next 12 months.

"The success of the Shindand Air Wing flight training will ensure an enduring, capable, and professional Air Force that can contribute to Afghanistan's security well into the future," said Col. Thomas Schadegg, Deputy Director for Air Education and Training Command, International Education and Training.

AETC's Air Force Security Assistance Training Squadron is the working arm of the command's international affairs directorate, and is the executive agent for all U.S. Air Force-sponsored international training. AFSAT is responsible for managing this pilot training program and supporting the air advisors working with the Afghan air force to accomplish their training mission.

Through language schools, various types of technical and flying training, and professional military education, AETC is training more than 6,500 students from approximately 150 countries annually in the U.S., with various U.S. Air Force teams in more than 40 countries abroad.

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