Two Afghan National Army Mi-17 helicopters recently flew a supply mission to an outpost near Qush Tappah, Jowzjan province, under the mentorship of International Security Assistance Force pilots and crews.
Regional Command North, headquartered at Camp Marmal in Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh province, requested that the Afghans take on the mission, as more missions are now being undertaken by the Afghan Army.
For two years, national army and ISAF mentors Camp Marmal have been working together to familiarize the pilots and crews of the Russian-built Mi-17 with coalition standard operating procedures.
Learning a new way to plan and execute successful supply missions is difficult for pilots that have spent years flying under different operating instructions, according to U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas Tran, deputy group commander of the U.S. Air Force’s 438th Air Expeditionary Wing.
Tran said the success of the program is evidenced by the undertaking of missions like the one to Qush Tappeh.
“These pilots were familiar with a different style of tactics,” Tran said following the completion of the Qush Tappeh mission. “Learning our style was the only way for them to become fully integrated with ISAF, and the only way for us to reduce our footprint in Afghanistan is to properly train them to take over the missions that ISAF has been performing. It’s definitely working, we’ve seen continuous improvement.”
Afghan Army Col Noor Ali, a pilot on the Qush Tappeh, mission feels the improvement seen has been a direct result of the partnership between ISAF and the Afghan Army, and said that mentoring programs are important for the future of Afghanistan.
“The Croatian pilots in particular have so much experience to share with us,” said Ali via an interpreter. “We are learning so much every day, but I’m not just learning for me. This will help Afghanistan so much in the future. I am looking forward to being a mentor for new generations of pilots. This will be great for our Afghan air forces.”
Croatia Lt. Col. Goran Novoselic, Croatian Air Force mentor, said he’s been impressed in the two months he has worked with his Afghan colleagues.
“I have seen many good moments in these two months,” Novoselic said. “They already had the knowledge to fly the aircraft, with what we are teaching them, they will continue to improve.”
On the mission to Qush Tappeh, both Mi-17’s were able to land, offload a full cargo load each and take off safely in less than 15 minutes. Tran said it was a good day all around, the Afghan Army soldiers stationed at Qush Tappeh now had food and equipment to make it through the winter months – and the ISAF mentors had even more confidence in their Afghan counterparts.