NATO Training Mission Afghanistan
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Elizabeth Burke
10.04.2010 KABUL, Afghanistan -- On Oct. 5, eight young Afghan eagles from the Afghan Air Force Thunder Lab will depart for 18 months of training in the United States. They will return as pilots.
The eight lieutenants signed their seven year service commitments before a small gathering of family and their American advisors. This intimate ceremony was followed by dinner with family, friends and supporters.
Col. Creig Rice stated, "You are the future of Afghanistan and what a bright future Afghanistan has."
They will head first to the
Language training will be followed by 12 months of pilot training. Their final English Comprehension Level test score dictates what type of aircraft they will fly. To become a fixed wing pilot, they must achieve an ECL score of 85 and for rotary wing a score of 80.
Some of these pilot candidates have been waiting follow on training for over a year. They are the reason the Thunder Lab was created when Col. Creig Rice, Vice Wing commander of the NATO Air Training Command –Afghanistan/438th Air Expeditionary Wing met with a frustrated group of young Afghan officers six months ago. From this meeting, the immersion program was created to keep them focused.
1st Lt. Khaibar Wifaq graduated from the National Military Academy of Afghanistan in 2009 and has been waiting to go to pilot training for 18 months. Lt. Wifaq knew since he was in the seventh grade that he wanted to be a pilot. He can’t believe this day has finally come.
“I am very excited and I am very happy. I can’t describe my feelings,” Lt. Wifaq said. “I wish to be successful in all my studies and I will come back and I will serve my country.”
2nd Lt. Emal Khair Kwah has dreamed of becoming a helicopter pilot since the seventh grade. He has already achieved the ECL score to qualify for the rotary wing program.
“I can’t express my feelings, I am very excited. It’s not believable just like a dream, my childhood dream and these steps are just the beginning to fulfill that dream,” Lt. Khair Kwah said.
He is the oldest son in his family and through his experience has inadvertently recruited his younger brother to be a pilot.
By the end of this year 22 pilot candidates will be attending training in the United States. Twenty–two newly trained pilots would transform the AAF.
“They would establish a higher level performance standard for the current cadre of pilots. Their mere presence, with their recent background and experience with modern flight training, will provide much needed stimulus and even competition to the squadrons' personnel,” said Lt. Col. Greg Roberts 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron commander and rotary wing advisor.