318th TRS to host Afghan maintenance personnel
By Gloria Kwizera
| JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs | Oct. 10, 2014
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
The 37th Training Wing, will make history by setting the training foundation for 90 Afghan maintainers in a first-of-its-kind training at the 318th Training Squadron Inter-American Air Forces Academy.
"Our specialty at IAAFA is providing maintenance training in Spanish to our Latin America partner nations," said Lt. Col William S. Latimer, 318th TRS commander. "That's our day in, day out bread and butter job and we have 71 years of practice doing just that job.
"What makes this unique is that for the first time ever we will apply our maintenance expertise to Afghan maintenance professionals."
The Air Force recently completed an environmental analysis and determined that stateside training is the most feasible option to deliver capability to the Afghan air force in the A-29 Light Air Support program.
A small, light aircraft, the A-29 is a multi-role, fixed wing, turboprop aircraft designed to operate in high-temperature conditions in extremely rugged terrain.
The need for the A-29 comes as the current Afghan air force LAS aircraft, the Mi-35 attack helicopter, reaches the end of its service life in January 2016.
"This is very important because not only is the A-29 a remarkable aircraft that meets a number of Afghan air force needs, it is also widely used in Latin America. A number of our partner nations currently use the A-29 or are interested in moving to the A-29," Latimer said. "This allows IAAFA and the 318th TRS to better serve our Latin American partners because although we are now teaching Afghans on the A-29, we are teaching a platform and a program that is related to what a lot of our Latin American already use or are moving towards. The Afghan A-29 initiative will provide a critical common point of reference between the U.S. and our Latin American partners."
To ensure the Afghan air force receives the support and training needed to safely and effectively deploy the A-29 aircraft, the 37th TRW will pass on some of this expertise as the "Gateway to the Air Force" to help the Afghanistan government continue to build the foundation of its air force.
"This training foundation will be the first time this has ever been accomplished and it sets the stage for successful deployment in the future, not just for the follow on training but far into the future of the Afghan air force and the government of Afghanistan," explained Latimer.
This is a one time U.S. government initiative that will help posture the Afghan air force for success in the future as the U.S. transitions out of Afghanistan.
"This will be a monumental improvement in Afghanistan; it represents a great bi-lateral effort between the United States government and the government of Afghanistan," shared Latimer.
The first cadre of Afghan maintenance personnel is expected to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland for English training at the Defense Language Institute in mid-October and will start maintenance training in February 2015 at the 318th TRS.
Pilot training for 30 Afghan air force pilots on the A-29 will take place at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The first of the 20 planes to be used for training arrived there on Sept. 26.
After the stateside temporary training, all 20 of the A-29 aircraft used for training will be donated to the Afghan air force.
"I am exceptionally proud of the diligent work that our members have put in during the last six months to prepare for this A-29 initiative," said Latimer. "I know this will be a win for not just for Afghanistan and U.S. but our Latin American partners as well. It has a positive impact all over the world."