By Ms. Adriane Foss (USASAC)June 24, 2015
The last of two of the longest serving U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization Technical Assistance Field Teams concluded its mission with its departure from Egypt June 1.
The AH-64D (Apache) TAFT was established in Feb. 15, 1993, as a nine-man Army aviation team with the mission to advise and assist the Egyptian Air Force 550th Apache Wing in the fielding, training, and operational sustainment of three squadrons, consisting of 640 Egyptian airmen and 35 AH-64D attack helicopters.
"For the past 22 years the TAFT has trained the EAF trainers of pilots and maintenance personnel in order for the wing to achieve the capability to sustain its own operations," said Walton "Buck" Walker, SATMO's Security Assistance Training manager for Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. "The TAFT has assisted in developing pilot training procedures; pilot-in-command and instructor pilot training, along with wing level maintenance to ensure the wing could begin to execute independently."
Walker has managed several different SAT programs in Egypt for the past five years. As a SAT manager, his job is to plan, develop and ensure execution of the TAFT missions. The SAT manager's job begins with coordinating with the host nation to determine their requirements.
"We're looking at what skill sets are needed by TAFT team members; we determine the doctrine required; and we have to have an understanding of who we are training and their level of experience," Walker said. From there, Walker said he is able to put together the training program, making sure all logistics are in place, "from where team members live and how they are supported to managing finances for the team."
But the SAT manager's job doesn't end there. Constant communication and coordination must be conducted throughout the mission.
During the political unrest throughout Egypt that erupted into waves of demonstration and participation in what is now known as the Arab Spring, the TAFT was evacuated and redeployed twice which in itself required close coordination and teamwork with U.S. Mission in Cairo, its Office of Military Cooperation-Egypt, and the TAFT team chief, an Army senior chief warrant officer.
Most recently, the reduced two-man TAFT included a standardization instructor pilot and a maintenance advisor noncommissioned officer. At that point, the TAFT provided advice and assistance to the Egyptian general officer wing commander and his staff to ensure the Apache crew training program was a success.
"This ensured the effectiveness of tactical flight operations and training, maintenance, supply, facilities and safety," Walker said.
"Finally, and most recently, the TAFT assisted with coordination for the delivery of 10 new Apaches to the Egyptian Air Force," he said. "It has accomplished its mission."
The Apache TAFT closure followed on the heels of the closure of SATMO's CH-47D (Chinook) TAFT which was established in September 1988 and completed its mission Dec. 19, 2014. According to Walker, the Chinook maintenance program ensured safety practices were at an all-time high, thanks to the TAFT's expertise and extensive knowledge of procedural doctrine.
"In its last year the Chinook TAFT oversaw the EAF's 127 tactical and training flight missions with 800 program maintenance hours without incident and achieved mission fully capable aircraft in FY '14," he said. "That TAFT developed, implemented and directed the first Chinook instructor pilot course, taking the first step towards making the Egyptian CH-47 Squadron self-sustaining."
Walker said in addition to implementing and directing the first flight engineer course in Egypt, which decreased the training time from 5-7 years to 2-3 years, "the TAFT also launched a training program to teach aircraft survivability and combat flying techniques as the situation in Egypt became very hazardous to flying operations."
Finally, it assisted the EAF's Chinook maintenance team in increasing their operational readiness rate from 40 percent when the TAFT arrived in November 2013 to more than 85 percent by February 2014. Walker said this rate was sustained throughout the year until its December departure.
Walker described both TAFTs as historic, noting TAFTs can be short-term, lasting in many cases for six months. He said the TAFTs in Egypt were part of the billion-dollar-a year-plus security cooperation program and contributed greatly to U.S. national security and partner relations -- two tenets of the USASAC mission.
"After a total of 27 years, with the departure of these TAFTs, the SATMO mission in Egypt in support of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cairo has come to a close -- at least for now," Walker said.