War on Terrorism

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Afghan C-130 takes off to a great start

by Capt. Anastasia Wasem
NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan

10/24/2013 - KABUL, Afghanistan  -- Just one day after receiving two C-130H aircraft, the Afghan Air Force, alongside NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan advisors, conducted the first mission in the new planes Oct. 10.

The first operational mission was flown by both AAF and coalition pilots between Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan and Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

"The fact that we already have the C-130s flying and we already have it airborne is a big step," said Maj. Chris Garcia, 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron and C-130 advisor from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. "It's going to take the weight off both the Cessna 208 and Mi-17 and really open up their mission."

The first mission consisted of several pallets of Mi-17 main landing gear parts, maintenance parts as well as office supplies for the Kandahar Air Wing. The load weighed more than 10,500 pounds according to Staff Sgt. Daniel Garber, 538 AEAS C-130 loadmaster and advisor from Pope Field, N.C.

"Everything has gone super smooth," said Garber upon arrival at KAF during the mission. "A little slower than normal but obviously right now we don't want to rush, we want to train. The slower the better as safety is key right now."

The C-130 will be a vital part of the AAF and its mission, according to Garcia. Prior to the arrival of the C-130 the main transportation aircraft were the fixed-wing C-208 and the Mi-17 helicopter. The C-130 can carry 10 times the amount of weight as the C-208 and 70 passengers versus eight in half the time.

"Our main goal is to support the other forces in Afghanistan," said AAF Col. Almal Pacha, one of two AAF C-130 pilots. "Today's mission went very well. That's a very good sign for Afghanistan and building the Afghan Air Force."

Pacha stated the C-130 will be the main airlift platform for the AAF and that the primary missions will include cargo and passenger movement, especially for the Afghan National Army, as well as emergency support.

The flight was not only the first operational mission for the new C-130s, but also the first upgrade training for Pacha and 1st Lt. Khial Shinwari, the first two AAF C-130 pilots. The training focused on the basics of transporting passengers and cargo from one point to another as well as instrument flying, stated Garcia.

"Both Pacha and Shinwari flew really well today," said Garcia about the flight. "I think they'll upgrade pretty quickly and progress really well. This flight was a great lead-in to their program."

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