PARDUBICE, Czech Republic, –
Twenty-two students graduated from Initial Entry Fixed-Wing (IEFW) school, including two women pilots, at a ceremony in Pardubice, Czech Republic, June 27.
During the ceremony, the graduates were congratulated by the guest speakers for their tremendous accomplishments throughout the 15-month course.
"You have much to celebrate, much to be proud of,” said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Joel Carey, Train, Advise, and Assist Command-Air commander. "You are entering an Air Force at an exciting time in its history where you will be a key contributor to the future security for the people of Afghanistan. Congratulations to all of you.”
Before receiving their certificates, the graduating students were addressed by Afghan Air Force 2nd Lt Mohammad Arash, student class leader, who shared his feelings about the graduating pilots, his peers.
"You made it, we all made it,” said Arash. "We accomplished one of the biggest milestones of our lives. We worked hard to get to this place and our work did not go to waste.”
"We will keep pushing because we know we can achieve our dreams,” he added.
While all the students had to work hard and demonstrate proficiency in order to graduate, the two female graduates had additional obstacles they had to overcome.
"We had no experience driving cars or motorcycles, so it was kind of unnerving,” said Afghan Air Force 2nd Lt. Omari, a graduate. "But as we got used to it, it became easy.”
"It’s awesome, just unbelievable,” added Omari. "Since childhood we were wishing to be pilots, and now the day has come that I will get my wings.”
The graduating women are part of an initiative to recruit more women into the Afghan National Army. The NATO-led Resolute Support gender integration advisors throughout the Train, Advise, and Assist Commands are helping to ensure that there are programs in place to help women feel welcome.
Omari, and 2nd Lt. Salahshor, her fellow female graduate, hope to be in inspirations to other young women who may want to pursue career fields that are typically dominated by men.
"I just want to say not only to girls in Afghanistan, but to girls all over the world, that whatever challenges you might face, it doesn’t matter,” said Salahshor. "[You] should keep going, you should fight for your rights and you should follow your dreams. I am sure that one day you will find yourself in the place that you really wanted to be.”
The Czech Republic is one of four locations including the United Arab Emirates, United States and Afghanistan where the Afghan Air Force training is being held.
Established in 2015, Resolute Support (RS) is a NATO-led, non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), who assumed nationwide responsibility for Afghanistan’s security following the conclusion of the previous NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission. Its purpose is to help the Afghan security forces and institutions develop the capacity to defend Afghanistan and protect its citizens in a sustainable manner.