KABUL, Afghanistan, May 12, 2015 - For the first time since the fall of the Taliban, the Afghan air force academy, Pohantoon-e-Hawayee, graduated its first class of 184 new officers Thursday during a ceremony in the university's conference hall.
The graduation was the culmination of a yearlong curriculum, which included English language classes, aviation-related courses and religious studies.
"Be strong and be prepared," said Afghan air force Maj. Gen. Abdul Wahab Wardak, the commanding general of the Afghan air force, during the graduation ceremony. "You are the future of the Afghan air force. The people of Afghanistan are proud of you. Do not forget that you are here to serve them."
Many of the new officers will pursue careers in the Afghan air force as C-208, Mi-17 and MD-530 operators. Others will go on to fill positions in more than 25 different career fields, such as maintenance, logistics and administration.
"Now that you have graduated, you have a large responsibility," said Afghan Lt. Gen. Mohammad Dawran, deputy chief of staff, Ministry of Defense, who also spoke at the graduation. "We need to serve this nation, the people and help them. You work for a united Afghanistan - not your province but your nation."
In addition to the graduates, the graduation hall teemed with senior military leaders, parliamentarians, civic leaders, current cadets and coalition advisers along with national and regional media.
"We have the intention and the goal to support our people," said Afghan 2nd Lt. Azizi, who graduated second academically in the class. "We promise our people we will do everything we can for their safety and bring them peace."
To graduate, the cadets completed three phases of training, encompassing more than 1,500 hours of course work. Similar to other military schools, the first two phases provide leadership, tactics and military training. However, the third phase focuses on studies unique to the air force, such as air tactics, avionics, air safety and meteorology.
"The Afghan National Army cannot succeed without the air force," said Dawran. "When the ground forces are fighting and they see and hear a helicopter flying overhead, they will fight more courageously because they know they have your protection."
Upon receiving their diplomas, the new officers should be filled with pride and optimism, said Wahab. Full-fledged members of a fighting force dedicated to the protection of their nation, this inaugural class of 184 newly-minted lieutenants, trained and educated in air force specialties, is the future foundation of a successful, capable and independent Afghanistan, the general said.