KABUL, Afghanistan --- At the Kabul International Airport, a joint U.S. mentorship effort is enabling the Afghan National Air Corps to soar toward new heights.
"We're helping them build a good process so they can have a healthy, sustaining air force," said Maj. Rudy Alejandro, a fixed wing unit mentor.
The ANAC is comprised of three main wings: rotary, fixed and presidential. The Air Force, Army and Marine mentors work shoulder-to-shoulder with their Afghan counterparts to enhance each wing's capabilities.
The three wings have combined to perform several operations, such as humanitarian missions and training exercises.
The rotary and presidential wings have a fleet of MI model helicopters and the fixed wing features ANs-26 and 32 and L-39 Albatross, the ANAC's premier aircraft.
Air Force Capt. Seung Hak Lee, rotary wing mentor, has his hands full with his job. "They're on their way toward self-sufficiency," Captain Lee said. "However, it's a paced process that requires time and patience."
The captain has been deployed for a year, and during that time, he's seen improvements. "We recently handed over the MI-17 gunnery door program," he said. "We started by setting up the range time, providing weapons and ammo and going through all the steps."
The captain said he was pleased that on the second and third tries, the ANAC received a walk-through and then ran the process unassisted. "This has been a good experience for me," he said. "The people are very friendly and hospitable and this experience has helped me become a more effective leader."
Leading the ANAC in the training area is Lt. Col. Habibullah Logery. As a training officer, he oversees the training schedule and the practical and professional training classes.
"We have a very good relationship with our American mentors," Colonel Logery said. "We all exchange ideas and experiences for effective operations on the ground and in the air."
Colonel Logery takes incredible pride in serving in the ANAC. "My country has trained me and I want to serve it and help with the reconstruction so we can stand on our own," Colonel Logery said.
Statements like that help mentors like Air Force Capt. Joshua Wennrich perform his job as a munitions mentor. "As mentors, we're here to provide suggestions and help guide them in the right direction," he said.
Captain Wennrich doesn't shy away from expressing that his role as a mentor has been both frustrating and fulfilling. "We've had to overcome some of the cultural differences," he stated. "Nevertheless, they are learning, are excited and glad we're here to help them."
His job primarily requires him to order munitions that support the ANAC's rotary wing aircraft. "It was a great feeling when we fired off the 12-point 7 millimeter Gatling gun from their helicopter," Captain Wennrich said. "Those first-time events are clear signs that the ANAC is taking steps toward becoming a fully sustained air force."
"Their help is very well appreciated," said Lt. Col. Abdullshafi Noory. "The American mentors are very good at what they do, and we're all working together hand in hand to advance our progress."
Working with the Air Force mentors are two U.S. Marines who are providing invaluable mentorship for the ANAC as well.
"They are making progress in all areas," said Marine Master Sgt. Tony Golmon, aircraft maintenance chief mentor. "Our No. 1 objective is for them to stand on their own and adopt not the American way, but a proper and proven way that has produced results."
Marine Maj. Melvin Love is a mentor for the presidential airlift wing. This wing provides air transport for the Afghan president. The MI-17 is a pristine helicopter with state-of-the-art features to include plush seating.
"My job is to help the air corps stand up a squadron that's dedicated to this unique mission," Major Love said. "I enjoy seeing how receptive they are and how they adapt to changes. They are pretty sharp individuals and they understand the teachings."
Major Alejandro echoes that sentiment. "They are very smart and they're technically proficient," he said. Major Alejandro believes his role as a mentor is to help the ANAC reach its overall war-fighting goal.
"They want to fight their war," Major Alejandro said, "and we're helping them reach that goal. They're going to have their own style of military, not an American military, but an Afghan military that's proud to get the job done."
U.S. Forces Mentor Afghan Air Corps to 'Stand on Own'