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Afghan Aviators Fly First Combat Mission (Apr 24)

WASHINGTON, DC --- Afghan National Army aviators completed their first combat-support mission April 15 in partnership with the coalition's Task Force Falcon.

Two Afghan National Army Air Corps crews arrived at Bagram Air Base April 10, completed several days of training, and then flew supplies aboard their Mi-17 Hip helicopters to Afghan and U.S. forces in Jalalabad.

Afghan and coalition participants are calling the mission a success. "It was special to me to be part of the first time we've done this mission together with the coalition. We had no problems and executed the mission properly," said Col. Nematullah, an Afghan National Army Air Corps pilot who, like many Afghans, uses only one name.

"Everything ran smoothly," said Army Maj. Brian Serota, Task Force Falcon's operations officer. "We started mission planning on (April 12) with the embedded trainers, went through some planning stages -- map reconnaissance, flight routes, weather, terrain and possible enemy action -- then did a rehearsal on (April 13). On (April 14), soldiers from the Joint Logistics Command came to help load the aircraft, and (April 15) the aviators executed the mission. It was excellent."

The first group of Afghan aviators conducted after-action reviews to identify areas in which they could improve, and then continued to fly missions for the remainder of their 10-day stay, Serota said. A second group was scheduled to replace them as soon as they departed.

"We want to rely on the Afghan Air Corps, to be able to give them a mission, or part of a ring route, and have them plan, coordinate and execute it themselves," Serota said.

Separately, soldiers from the Afghan National Army's Central Movement Agency trained with members of the coalition's Joint Logistics Command detachment at Bagram Air Base to improve the Afghan National Army's logistical support capabilities.

From April 12 through April 14, Afghan and coalition soldiers practiced preparing cargo for various modes of delivery -- in cargo holds, in sling loads and by parachute.

The training culminated with the presentation of an Afghan-U.S. partnership pin to members of both organizations.

"This is just the beginning of a partnership between ANA logisticians and coalition logisticians," said Army Col. Larry Wyche, commander of the Joint Logistics Command detachment.

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Afghan Aviators Complete Historic Mission