KABUL, Afghanistan (March 8, 2013) -- Afghan Air Force observed International Women's Day by honoring Afghan military women who seize the opportunity to serve in non-traditional roles in support of their country.

The celebration opened with a commemorative ceremony and was capped by a helicopter demonstration at Kabul International Airport. Young Afghan female pilots, military trainees, and female coalition members from ISAF Joint Command attended.

Maj. Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak opened the ceremony noting the increased interest and advancement of women, not only the Air Force but in the military over the past three years.

"We have seen these women turn in very good performance," Wardak said. "They have made the progress happen."

Other distinguished guests echoed Wahab's remarks. Gen. Nazifa Zaki of the Afghan Parliament, said that Afghan women have made strides, many educated in other countries have returned to work hard serving and have earned the respect of their country.

One honored guest, the first woman in the Afghan Air Corps, Col. Latifa Nabizada, looked forward to women breaking new ground, doing training and establishing female support teams.

Nabizada, born in Afghanistan, applied for flight school at age 17 and graduated number one in the class. Her career as a military helicopter pilot in began 1988. She graduated three years later from the Air Defense Academy. With more than 1,000 flight hours, she flies Mi-17 helicopters delivering supplies to most of Afghanistan's provinces, including areas of heavy combat where she has also evacuated wounded personnel.

International Women's Day is a holiday that has been observed around the world for more than a century. It is a time of celebration of respect and appreciation for women's economic, political, and social achievements.

Allowing women to train and serve with the Afghan Air Force is an accomplishment unspoken of during Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

"These Afghan women demonstrate two leadership qualities," said Brig. Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, vice commander U.S. Air Force Air Expeditionary Command. "Courage and compassion. They have had the courage to defend their country and the compassion to make a difference."

With the U.S. drawing down forces and supporting the growth capability of the Afghan National Security Forces, the time for women to answer the call to support their country is prominent.

The event was filled with celebration of women all over the world through poetry readings from women of the Afghan Air Force, Afghan women's handcrafts, and a luncheon with senior military leadership where men and women sat together sharing military stories and experiences.