KABUL, Afghanistan: A joint aircrew of U.S. Airmen from the 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron and Afghan soldiers in the Afghanistan National Army Air Corps completed an operational C-27 Spartan mission here March 24.
Taking off from Kabul International Airport, the four-man aircrew flew Southwest to Kandahar Airfield. The crew was tasked with an International Security Assistance Force cargo delivery mission with 3,400 pounds of emergency medical equipment and 19 passengers.
“The key for moving Afghan people and equipment will be airlift,” said Lt. Col. James Piel, 538th AEAS commander and pilot deployed from the 6th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla. “And after today’s successful mission we just kicked in the door for sustained Afghan Airlift.”
“This mission put the Afghans and the C-27 directly into the fight,” said Brigadier General Michael Boera, 438th Air Expeditionary Wing and Combined Air Power Transition Force commander. “Our Airmen have been mentoring the Afghans and helping them to become a professional air force. Today was a great day from start to finish and will go a long way toward ensuring Afghanistan’s security.”
The mission was a source of pride for Afghanistan, its people, as well as the ANAAC and Afghan National Army soldiers.
“I am proud to witness the fruits of your hard work, you are the people who put your life at risk to help your country,” said General B.K. Mohmadi, Afghanistan National Army chief of staff, to a crowd of more than 100 Afghan soldiers, as well as U.S. and Coalition Forces during a ceremony prior to the mission. “I am happy to have the capability of this new C-27 aircraft working for our country and I appreciate each one of you.”
The almost three-hour mission capped a successful year for U.S. Air Force pilots and loadmasters, who began training on the C-27 aircraft – which is a smaller version of a C-130 Hercules – in September 2009. Then, in November U.S. Airmen began mentoring and training Afghans to conduct strategic and tactical airlift, airdrops and presidential support. The U.S. Airmen advisors have a clear goal, which is to pass on valuable knowledge to effectively deliver cargo, people and assets vital to Afghanistan’s security.
“These are my Air Force brothers,” said Master Sgt. Chris Ringland, 538th AEAS loadmaster-mentor deployed from the 6th SOS at Hurlburt Field. “They soak in every lesson we teach them and when they receive the information they retain it. To have a successful mission like the one we accomplished, you have to have outstanding students and teachers and I am proud to say we showed that today.”
One of those outstanding students is 1st Lt. Faiz M. Ramaki, an ANAAC C-27 pilot, who is Afghanistan’s first fully-qualified C-27 pilot – he served as co-pilot for the mission.
“This mission shows the ability of our instructors, shows the ability of us as Afghans and shows you what hard work can do,” said Lieutenant Ramaki, who is also the first Afghan pilot to graduate from a nine-month U.S. pilot training course in more than 50 years. “We can now assist our brothers in combat and that means a lot. We are flying missions with meaning and purpose and I could not be happier.”
The C-27 aircrew ended the historic mission by delivering 300 pounds of cargo and 23 passengers to Kabul. After exiting the plane, the aircrew ended the day with handshakes and smiles.
“This mission brings an unprecedented capability to Afghanistan,” said Colonel Piel, a native of St. Louis, Mo. “Today is a great day with many more to follow – whether its military movements, humanitarian missions, medical evacuations or presidential support, the Afghans showed they are ready to deliver.”
The squadron expects to expand the Afghan C-27 fleet to 20 aircraft by the end of the program and expects the delivery of two more C-27s in early April.