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Afghan Air Force discusses partnership with Task Force Thunder

 

Written by Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Carl
159th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs

Fort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne Division159th Combat Aviation BrigadeKandahar Airfield, Afghanistan – Members of the Afghan Air Force met with the leaders of Task Force Thunder here April 2nd to discuss future partnership opportunities to further expand the capabilities of native rotary-wing assets.

Afghan Air Force Maj. Gen. Abdul Razik Sherzai, the commander of the Kandahar Air Wing, along with members of his staff, met with Task Force Thunder commander Col. Todd Royar and his subordinate leaders to evaluate how the two organizations could best work together.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Elizabeth Kimbrough - an AH-64 Apache pilot - and Capt. Donna Buono (middle) - the commander of Company B, 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, and an AH-64 Apache pilot - introduce Afghan air force Maj. Gen. Abdul Razik Sherzai, the commander of the Kandahar Air Wing, to the helicopter during the general's visit with Task Force Thunder here April 2nd. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Carl)

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Elizabeth Kimbrough - an AH-64 Apache pilot - and Capt. Donna Buono (middle) - the commander of Company B, 3rd Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, and an AH-64 Apache pilot - introduce Afghan air force Maj. Gen. Abdul Razik Sherzai, the commander of the Kandahar Air Wing, to the helicopter during the general's visit with Task Force Thunder here April 2nd. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Carl)

“We’ve been looking forward to this partnership,” Sherzai said after Royar provided an overview of the composition of Task Force Thunder and the ways in which he believed his Soldiers could best help Sherzai and his team.

Among the possible areas for partnership discussed were crew chief training, air assault operations, security forces, sling-load operations, air and ground force integration, and MEDEVAC operations.

The crew chief training is especially important, said Afghan air force Capt. Payenda, an MI-17 pilot with the Kandahar Air Wing. They see everything the pilots can’t see and have a very important job.
Another area the two teams will likely focus on initially is the air-ground integration.

Afghan air force Maj. Gen. Abdul Razik Sherzai, the commander of the Kandahar Air Wing, climbs into the cockpit of an AH-64 Apache helicopter here during a visit with the Task Force Thunder April 2nd. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Carl)

Afghan air force Maj. Gen. Abdul Razik Sherzai, the commander of the Kandahar Air Wing, climbs into the cockpit of an AH-64 Apache helicopter here during a visit with the Task Force Thunder April 2nd. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie Carl)

“The [U.S.] Air Force has been the lead for helicopter training here since about 2007,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Fred Koegler, the commander of the 441st Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, which is part of the NATO team of advisers for the Afghan Air Force. “We haven’t had any Army advisers [for the helicopter teams].”

Koegler explained that the Air Force has a different skill set than the Army when it comes to rotary-wing aircraft.

“We have the search and rescue teams, so we’re able to provide a lot of advice on the medical side of things, but we don’t integrate our air and ground assets the way the Army does, and we absolutely welcome any help the Army can offer in advising the Afghan Air Force.”

Another focal point of Sherzai’s was the possibility of Pathfinder training for his forces. While the Army doesn’t offer a formal Pathfinder course in Afghanistan, Royar did present the possibility of his Pathfinder company teaching at least parts of the course to the Afghan forces.

Though this was one of the initial meetings between Task Force Thunder and its Afghan counterparts, it’s expected that there will be many more in the future as the two join in a partnership to benefit the people and the future of Afghanistan.

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