American Forces Press Service
June 16, 2009 - The first Afghan officer to train in the United States in nearly 50 years earned his silver Air Force wings in a June 12 ceremony at Columbus Air Force. Col. Roger Watkins, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, presented pilot wings to Lt. Faiz Mohammed Ramaki upon his completion of the Aviation Leadership Program there.
The USAF Aviation Leadership Program is a scholarship for USAF flying training that includes English language training, 25 hours of flight screening in a civil aircraft, such as a Cessna 172, 335 academic and ground training hours and about 167 flight hours and simulator sorties. The USAF flying portion of the program takes about 10 months to complete.
"The ALP program was challenging and difficult" Ramaki said. "Succeeding in the ALP is an accomplishment. While this is a good day for me, it is a great day for my country."
Ramaki will continue his flying training in his next aircraft, the C-27A Spartan. The Afghanistan military expects to receive the first of 20 Italian-built C-27's late this summer.
When asked what he missed most about his native Afghanistan, Ramaki glowed at the memories of his family, his countrymen, culture and language. "It will be good to return," he said.
Following in Ramaki's footsteps, 61 Afghan pilot candidates are scheduled to spend up to 30 months in the United States, attending English language training and follow-on pilot training with the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy. Also, 30 experienced Afghan Army Air Corps pilots will spend up to 10 months in the United States, attending English language training followed by aircraft instrument flight qualification and return to the Kabul Air Wing for C-27 qualification training.
One of the first Afghan pilots to train in the United States was retired Col. Ghulam Mustafa Tayer, who traveled to the United States in 1958.
"Be proud of your accomplishments at Columbus," Watkins said. "You will go back to your country and share what you learned with other air corps pilots."