News: Afghan pilot follows father’s footsteps, flies in Afghan Air Force
Story by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo
CAMP TOMBSTONE, Afghanistan – Afghan Air Force MI-17 helicopters arrive in a whirlwind of dust and debris as their rotors disrupt the ground below them.
The entirely Afghan-manned crew will support an Afghan National Army brigade during Operation Azadi, which means freedom.
It is the first major operation in the area with ANA and AAF forces working together.
“We can help with different types of air support,” said AAF Capt. Najibullah Khogianai, a pilot with 441 Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. “We move passengers safely from one place to another and can bring supplies.”
Khogianai’s crew takes the lead for air support during the operations, with coalition forces behind them. Their main objective is to resupply the Afghan soldiers on the ground. The soldiers will conduct clearing and holding operations and need the air support to work efficiently.
“Air support is important because it allows the soldiers to operate longer while getting the supplies they need,” said Khogianai.
In addition to resupplying the soldiers, for the first time in the area, the AAF is responsible for casualty evacuations.
“We can fly patients to safety if we need to,” said ANA Sgt. Khodaedad, a flight medic with the unit.
Helicopter evacuations are faster than ground convoys and less dangerous.
“Moving on the ground can put the patient’s life in more danger,” said Khogianai. “The helicopter can take them to the hospital without having to worry about improvised explosive devices.”
Each helicopter has two flight medics in case an ANA soldier needs immediate medical treatment.
“We can give them an (intravenous line) or oxygen,” said Khodaedad. “We can also give them medical care that other medics might not be able to and get them to a hospital quickly and safely.”
Khogianai pilots the MI-17 helicopter throughout Afghanistan. He is living out his childhood dream of becoming a pilot like his father.
“I remember when I was little, looking through my father’s flight suits,” said Khogianai. “He was an Air Force officer with the regime at the time, and I wanted to be like him.”
He achieved his goal and proudly serves Allah, his country, his military and his people, he said.
In the upcoming weeks, Khogianai’s crew leaves for their mission. They will make strides toward a more independent Afghanistan when they support the ANA during Operation Azadi.
Afghan soldiers conduct and operate independently throughout the area, but for the first time, their air support will be Afghan service members too.