SHINDAND, Afghanistan -- Three Soldiers from the Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization are in place for one year to conduct pilot instruction and logistics for the Rotary Wing Flight Training Program in Afghanistan.

The training effort is the first to be held in Afghanistan in more than 30 years. It is intended to provide the Afghan Air Corps with a self-sufficient program that is capable of training, maintaining and sustaining itself without assistance from coalition partners, according to Lt. Col. Jeffery Bouma, USASATMO's team chief for the Afghanistan MD 530 course.

"Training opportunities such as this are very difficult and time consuming to get off the ground," Bouma said. USASATMO's mission includes building partner capacity. "With our assistance we can help the Afghans build a program that they can take sole ownership of in just a few years."

Six MD 530 aircraft, two Flight Training Devices and additional equipment and critical spare parts were delivered in December to the Shindand Air Base as part of a foreign military sale through the Army Security Assistance Command. The equipment will be used for training and developing an independent Afghan air force program.

The first class of Afghan student pilots completed an eight-week Initial Flight Screening process on the Cessna-182 airplane. This included basic airplane aerodynamics, physiology and an introduction to basic and advanced flight maneuvers, according to Bouma. In addition to the initial screening, students also received language training since all classes will be taught in English. The next step for the class of Afghan Air Force lieutenant training candidates is a five-month Undergraduate Helicopter Pilot Training course.

The pilots will receive a full spectrum of training through classroom instruction, flight simulators and supervised flight in the new MD 530 helicopters, Bouma said. Four of the pilots from the charter class began training on the MD 530 Feb. 21.

"The MD 530F is a relatively simple helicopter, not as complex as many of the aircraft we learn to fly on in the United States," Bouma said. "I'm confident that our students will have a very good grasp of flight within 15 to 20 hours."

After graduation from the MD 530 course, the pilots will train on the Mi-17 in a six-week course before being assigned to operational flying positions throughout the country.

USASATMO will continue to conduct multiple training classes throughout the year in Afghanistan, fulfilling their motto "Training the World, One Soldier at a Time." USASATMO is a subordinate command of USASAC and is based at Fort Bragg, N.C. The command has 116 personnel deployed to 16 countries providing foreign nations with security assistance training and management support.