Advisors with Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air traveled to Shindand Air Wing, Herat, Afghanistan, to meet with Afghan Air Force wing leaders on March 1, 2017.
Since the drawdown of coalition forces in 2014, advisors have relocated to centralized parts of Afghanistan removing the train and advise mission at Shindand.
However, TAAC-Air advisors are working through the distance to continue interactions with their AAF counterparts.
Lt. Col. Jose Lasso, the TAAC-Air deputy director of logistics, oversaw the site visit and met with AAF Brig. Gen. Abdul Qudratullah, the Shindand Air Wing commander, to gain his perspective on current operations in the general’s area of responsibility.
During the trip, advisors from various career fields like logistics, maintenance, safety, intelligence, civil engineer and C-130 Hercules flight crews met with their counterparts to train and advise, as well as assess the current mission.
“There was a sense of enthusiasm, curiosity and eagerness to accomplish the various objectives we had planned,” Lasso said. “The assessment was that Shindand appears to offer much infrastructure without the need to invest a huge amount of budgetary capital. Shindand leadership possesses a sense of pride and ownership infused throughout organizations within the installation.”
Lasso went on to commend the Shindand leadership saying, “The base is very clean, the hangars are pristine and the AAF personnel appear professional in all facets of the business.”
The visit allowed for face-to-face interaction with new advisors at the wing.
“The most important aspect of the trip was this was the first site visit in eight months,” said Maj. Daniel Birge, the TAAC-Air logistics directorate, director of maintenance. “For advisors to come out to their air wing to re-establish contacts and relationships means a lot to the AAF at Shindand.”
This visit enabled AAF crews to transport 9,000 pounds of Mi-17 parts. AAF Mi-17 maintenance crews provide all of the maintenance at Shindand. Maintainers were able to pull parts from unserviceable helicopters to reuse on other Mi-17s in the AAF inventory.
“We brought back four Mi-17 engines and an assortment of others for the "Repair of Repairables" program or ROR,” Birge said. “This is just returning used parts to the repair cycle so they can be overhauled and reused. ROR parts that have been overhauled are significantly cheaper than new, typically 50-60 percent cheaper. The projected savings is at least $500,000 per engine we returned.”
From the manufactured date, an Mi-17 has 2,000 flight hours or nine years, whichever occurs first. After the first overhaul, it has 2,000 hours or eight years. This cycle can continue until 35 years or 7,000 hours before a service life extension is needed, Birge explained.
“By placing these parts in the repair cycle versus buying new, there will be about a $3 million savings,” Birge said.
The parts were palletized and loaded by an AAF aircrew onto an Afghan C-130H. The parts where then flown back to Kabul to the ROR program. This process allowed for new training for the AAF aircrew involved in this mission.
Master Sgt. Brian Castillio, the TAAC-Air and 538th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron superintendent and loadmaster advisor, was on site to advise the AAF aircrew on loading and transportation of the Mi-17 parts.
Preparing for their return to Kabul from Shindand, the AAF C-130 loadmaster and flight engineer were able to gain hands-on training on overcoming cargo limitations.
“My counterparts were able to see a complete buildup of a 463L logistics pallet, which is not normally part of the Afghan loadmaster training,” Castillio said. “From this experience, they have a better understanding of aircraft limitations, weight and balance on armored aircraft, and load-shifting to accommodate passengers, cargo, and vehicles.”
Although ground time at Shindand was only a few hours, advisors were able to gain a better understanding of AAF objectives in their various functions.
Plans to return to Shindand are in the works to help continue developing a professional, capable and sustainable Afghan Air Force.
“TAAC-Air benefitted from the visit in that relationships with Shindand key personnel were re-energized after several months,” Lasso said. “The AAF benefitted from TAAC-Air's visit in that they gained a sense of the coalition caring and willingness to train, advise and assist again, that is, from the most fundamental tactical level to their wing commander's level.”