Training Center Launches Fledgling Afghan Pilots

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2010 — To best pro­tect itself, Afghanistan needs an air­borne secu­ri­ty ele­ment to mon­i­tor remote val­leys and vil­lages that ground troops find dif­fi­cult to reach.

Air Force Lt. Col. Ryan Nichols, com­man­der of the Afghan Air Force Air School and the 738th Air Expe­di­tionary Advi­so­ry Squadron, is charged with train­ing Afghan sol­diers to oper­ate in their fledg­ling air force, and he dis­cussed his spe­cial­ized train­ing facil­i­ty in an Oct. 28 “DODLive” blog­gers round­table.

“[This is] their pri­ma­ry school to train Afghan air force mem­bers for their future Afghan air force career,” said Nichols, an F-16 pilot. “I’m the com­man­der of the mentor/advisor squadron that teams with the Afghans on that side.”

Nichols said his squadron focus­es on intro­duc­to­ry aca­d­e­m­ic train­ing and some lit­er­a­cy, as Afghans are trained to be pilots lat­er in their careers at sites in the Unit­ed States, Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates or Unit­ed King­dom. In the future, he added, pilots will be trained in facil­i­ties near the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul.

“We have a pro­fes­sions pil­lar, which is tech train­ing,” he explained. “There’s a lead­er­ship pil­lar, which is pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary edu­ca­tion — kind of basic mil­i­tary stuff — and then there’s the edu­ca­tion pil­lar, which is lit­er­a­cy pro­grams and Eng­lish pro­grams.”

Nichols’ squadron is made up of about 50 peo­ple from the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps, as well as ser­vice­mem­bers from Cana­da and Por­tu­gal. Three-quar­ters of the unit’s mem­bers are enlist­ed per­son­nel. In addi­tion, 70 Afghan staff mem­bers work at the school in vary­ing capac­i­ties, he said.

Cours­es are tai­lored to help stu­dents learn things to help them not only as pilots, but also to help them advance in their mil­i­tary careers, Nichols said.

“If you look at the enlist­ed side, the force devel­op­ment mod­el for a young air­man or a young enlist­ed sol­dier is [that] at some point they’ll progress into [the non­com­mis­sioned offi­cer ranks], and we do have what’s called a team leader course, which is kind of the next phase of pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary edu­ca­tion that those guys will go through,” he said. The school also offers an intro­duc­to­ry course for young offi­cers, he added, who will attend squadron offi­cer schools and senior offi­cer cours­es lat­er in their careers.

Gen­er­al­ly, Nichols said, new sol­diers go through a one-month ori­en­ta­tion course, fol­lowed by three weeks of lit­er­a­cy cours­es. Where they go after that depends entire­ly on their job and the train­ing they received ear­li­er, he added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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