News: Local villagers witness first Afghan air assault
Story by Spc. Monica K. Smith
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan— The members of the Afghan national security forces Air Assault Academy executed their first air assault mission, March 10, in the village of Qual ' Ehye Beland, Afghanistan, outside of Bagram Airfield.
The 22 Afghan National Army commandos spilled out of the Mi-17s helicopters, securing a perimeter around the aircraft. After the Mi-17s helicopters took off, the commandos softened their military tone posture and turned from performing an air assault to carrying out a material assistance mission.
"This was the first time that the Afghan national army commandos planned purely with Afghan air crews," said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chris Hinkle, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, TF Task Force Falcon, training leader for the air assault academy. "This was also the first time they performed an air assault from their own Mi-17s and the first time the commandos executed a ground tactical plan without following a U.S. Soldier. They planned it, they briefed it, they executed it on their own."
Both the air and ground crews worked two days prior to the air assault. On the day of the mission, the Mi-17s landed and the commandos moved into the village to meet with the elders and the other villagers.
From the air, the crew chiefs watched as many of the villagers hesitantly approached the sSoldiers. , however oOnce the villagers realized the soldiers were Afghan National Army Commandos,, their hesitation dissipated as the villagers began to cry and reach out to touch and talk to them.
"We just dropped the soldiers off and the people stayed away but when we landed to pick them up, we saw the people coming around the aircraft," said an Afghan National Army Air Corps Ccrew Cchief Abdul Wali, one of the Afghan National Army Air Corps crew chiefs. "They were proud of their Afghan brothers helping Afghanistan. They were so happy and it made me happy too."
In addition they conducted After they conducted their material assistance mission consisting of handing out radios and school supplies,. The commandos spent 30 minutes on the ground talking with the local people, including children at school. They then moved to the pick-up zone and prepared for extraction.
After performing their first mission at Qual 'Ehye Beland, the ground and air teams met together to go over and discuss areas of success and improvement.
After a short break the two teams conducted their second mission of the day in Khanjarkhel, also outside of Bagram Airfield.
The second mission was identical to the first in that the commandos practiced tactical movements and then began their material assistance mission. Hinkle, who watched both missions from a circling UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, said he is was proud of the teams and the progress they made.
"([The commandos and crew chiefs)] integrated what they learned from their courses into the mission and performed all their duties," said Hinkle. "It was the first time they've ever done this."