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    Afghan Air Force picks up last election ballots in Taliban stronghold



    Story by Capt. Robert Leese 

    438th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

    KABUL, Afghanistan -- On Sept. 28, under the cover of darkness over Laghman province, four helicopters from the Afghan Air Force and U.S. Task Force Bastogne flew across the night sky with one purpose, to pick up the remaining parliamentary ballots from an area infiltrated by the Taliban.

    While dropping off the election ballots, Sept. 16, the AAF Mi-17 transport helicopters were fired on by small arms, heavy machine guns and RPGs. For the pilots going back to the same area, it would take courage, conviction and night vision goggles. The NVGs helped the helicopters mitigate the threat by flying at night and allowed them to get into and out of a potentially hot landing zone while grabbing the 800 kg. of election ballots. This time, they did not receive any fire on the exfiltration.

    Brig. Gen. David Allvin, NATO Air training Command - Afghanistan commander, explained, "Last night marked significant milestone for the Afghan Air Force. The fact that the planning and execution of this complex mission, in challenging conditions, was led by Afghan Airmen bodes well for the future of the AAF."

    Participating in the mission that night were one Afghan pilot and two flight engineers all filling their primary crew positions. They were just qualified on NVG for tactical missions three days prior, the first in AAF history. They filled their positions admirably, going in under extremely bad weather conditions, under zero illumination and in helicopters untested in the night exfiltration mission. This was the first operational NVG mission flown by the AAF and showed that they have taken another step forward by adding another capability to their repertoire.

    A total of 390 polling centers needed to be serviced by air for any of several reasons: high threat to ground transportation, impassable terrain, too sparse of population, or no means of transportation. Of those 390, almost half of the polling centers were serviced by the AAF.

    The last of the 390 polling centers was in Laghman province, more specifically in the town of Dowlat Shah. This area is a hotly contested Taliban area where there is lots of corruption. Due to the threat in the area, Afghan ground forces and members of the Independent Electoral Committee, who oversee the ballots to ensure a fair election, were unable to move all the ballots to the polling center exfiltration point for the helicopter within the originally allotted time.

    After receiving an extension, they were able to get the last of the ballots officially to the polling center for exfiltration the same day that the AAF went in at night to pull them out. Many people risked their lives to make sure it was a fair election. It is important that the people have a chance to voice their opinion on the next change in leadership.

    While there were NATO advisors on board with a diverse skill set to help, the real story is about the Afghans, who took part in and led the mission both on the ground, risking their lives to make sure the ballots got to exfiltration site, and in the air to pull them out to make sure they have a fair democracy in Afghanistan.

    This is another stepping stone as the Afghans were involved in large scale planning with multiple partners of a member of a joint task force. With the completion of last night's election support mission, the AAF has flown over 225 flight hours to deliver and recovery over 67,000 kg. of tasked district ballots and 530 personnel.



    Date Taken: 09.28.2010
    Date Posted: 10.04.2010 09:04
    Story ID: 57465
    Location: KABUL, AF 

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