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Kandahar Air Wing rings in new year with annual open house

By Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie L. Carl , 159th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs

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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (January 1, 2012) — About 350 school children and elders from Kandahar province visited the Afghan air force Kandahar Air Wing Jan. 1 during its third annual open house, where they had the opportunity to become familiar with the aircraft they often see or hear overhead.

Soldiers from the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, which provides mentorship to the Wing’s helicopter and ground maintenance crews, gave the guests tours of an AH-64 Apache, an OH-58 Kiowa, a CH-47 Chinook and a UH-60 Black Hawk.

The Kandahar Air Wing also had aircraft on display, including the MI-17 and the new MI-15 helicopter, as well as airplanes.
Before the students visited the aircraft, key leaders from the Afghan air force welcomed all of the guests to the event.

“I would like to thank all of Kandahar province and its leaders for supporting the Kandahar Air Wing,” said Maj. Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak, the commander of the Afghan air force, during the ceremony. “We have faced a lot of problems, and still we face many challenges in training and with maintaining these aircraft.”

Wahab also emphasized the role the Afghan youth play in the country’s future.

“It’s important that our younger generations are able to defend Afghanistan. It’s your nation, and you must support them, defend them.”

To facilitate this, Wahab mentioned plans to open a recruiting center for the Afghan air force in Kandahar, among other locations. Currently, all recruiting for the organization is done in Kabul, the country’s capital. He also stressed the importance of education as a qualifying factor in becoming a member of the air force, a message that wasn’t lost on the students.

“I’m going to fly airplanes!” exclaimed a 17-year-old Afghan boy as he explored the cockpit of one of the airplanes. Before he can do that though, he has to finish school. The boy is currently in the 11th grade, but cannot join the Air Force until he completes 12th grade.

The visitors to the Air Wing included several classes of female students from girls’ schools in the Kandahar area, many who were excited by the idea of flying the helicopters. A group of the girls visited briefly with Chief Warrant Officer 4 Anne Wiley, who pilots the OH-58 Kiowa. Wiley talked to the girls about her experiences as an aviator, and said she was very happy to have such a captive audience.

“It’s so great to see so many girls here for this event,” Wiley said.