By Spc. Monica K. Smith, 3rd CAB, Task Force Falcon, Public AffairsMarch 25, 2010
This is the second installment of a four-part series from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade highlighting the Air Assault Academy in Afghanistan.
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The members of the Afghan National Security Forces Air Assault Academy executed their first air assault mission, March 10, in Qual ' Ehye Beland, Afghanistan, outside of Bagram Airfield.
The 22 Afghan National Army Commandoes spilled out of the Mi-17s securing a perimeter around the aircraft. After the Mi-17s took off, the commandos softened their tone and turned from performing an air assault to carrying out a material assistance mission.
"This was the first time that the Afghan National Army Commandos planned purely with Afghan air crews," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Hinkle, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, TF Falcon, training leader for the air assault academy. "This was also the first time they performed an air assault from their own Mi-17s and the first time the commandos executed a ground tactical plan without following a U.S. Soldier. They planned it, they briefed it, and they executed it on their own."
Both the air and ground crews worked two days prior to the air assault. On the day of the mission, the Mi-17s landed and the commandos moved into the village to meet with the elders and the other villagers.
From the air, the crew chiefs watched as many of the villagers hesitantly approached the soldiers.
However, once the villagers realized the soldiers were Afghan National Army Commandos, their hesitation dissipated as the villagers began to cry and reach out to touch and talk to them.
"We just dropped the soldiers off and the people stayed away but when we landed to pick them up, we saw the people coming around the aircraft," said Abdul Wali, one of the Afghan National Army Air Corps crew chiefs. "They were proud of their Afghan brothers helping Afghanistan. They were so happy and it made me happy too."
In addition they conducted material assistance handing out radios and school supplies. The commandos spent 30 minutes on the ground talking with the local people, including children at school. They then moved to the pick-up zone and prepared for extraction.
After performing their first mission at Qual 'Ehye Beland, the ground and air teams met together to go over and discuss areas of success and improvement.
After a short break the two teams conducted their second mission of the day in Khanjarkhel, also outside of Bagram Airfield.
The second mission was identical to the first in that the commandos practiced tactical movements and then began their material assistance mission. Chief Warrant Officer Hinkle, who watched both missions from a circling Black Hawk, said he is proud of the teams and the progress they made.
"The commandos and crew chiefs integrated what they learned from their courses into the mission and performed all their duties," said Chief Warrant Officer Hinkle. "It doesn't sound that great, but it was the first time they've ever done it."