C-27A adviser squadron now fully manned

By Tech. Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson: U.S. AFCENT Combat Camera

KABUL, Afghanistan — A year of success stories continues for airmen of the 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, who are advising Afghan National Army Air Corps soldiers on the use of the C-27A Spartan.

“We are now fully manned and will be able to continue toward our goal of building a professional air force for Afghanistan,” said Senior Master Sgt. Mike Crews, the 538th AEAS superintendent, deployed from the 1st Special Operations Support Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla. “Our team has already overcome some huge hurdles to accomplish some great things. Now we just have to build on what we have already accomplished and keep it going.”

Since November 2009, Combined Air Power Transition Force airmen have been training Afghan C-27 pilots and loadmasters to conduct strategic and tactical airlift, airdrops and presidential support. Advisers have a clear goal to pass on to the Afghan airmen the skills to transport cargo, people and assets vital to their security.

In the past three months, airmen helped qualify the first Afghan C-27 pilot, Feb. 23, and loadmaster, March 28. They also flew the first ANAAC C-27 operational mission March 24. Since then, five more ANAAC soldiers have become qualified as pilots and loadmasters. The unit now has five C-27As in its fleet and has almost 20 operational missions under its belt. The new 538th AEAS airmen hope to build on that success.

“This is a great opportunity to work with some fantastic folks,” said Capt. Larry Needham, a 538th AEAS instructor pilot deployed from Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. “I have already begun to forge some relationships with people that I foresee lasting a lifetime. Looking at what we have already accomplished, I feel the time we will invest here will have a positive effect on the long term security of Afghanistan.”

Capt. Mohammad-Shah Ahmadzai, one of the newest qualified ANAAC C-27 pilots, agrees.

“The commitment our adviser has shown has been good,” Ahmadzai said. “I have great faith in our new instructors, and I have had the chance to fly with them, and they show the same care for our people as our other instructors. It feels good to have people helping us to get better at flying the C-27 for Afghanistan.”

For some of the new advisers, being a part of this mission is something special.

“Coming from Air Mobility Command to this mission has been really different, … challenging, but extremely cool,” said Master Sgt. Chris Beckwith, a 538th AEAS loadmaster adviser deployed from Travis AFB, Calif. “Getting to see what we are helping to build here is awesome, and when I leave here it will probably be one of the highlights of my career.”

In the next few months, 538th AEAS airmen hope to have four or five fully-qualified ANAAC aircrews and look forward to flying increased operational missions to support Afghan security forces and International Security Assistance Forces.

“We will continue to ride this train all the way to the finish line,” said Lt. Col. James Piel, the 538th AEAS commander and air adviser deployed from the 6th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field. “Sustained Afghan airlift is a goal that gets clearer and clearer each day. The Afghans are taking the steps necessary to make this mission their own, and our team will be here to help them serve Afghanistan and their coalition partners.”