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Afghan Air Force supports Pathfinder Academy

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The Kandahar Air Wing provided rotary wing air support to the 4th Lightning Strike Pathfinder Academy operated by Pathfinders of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Afghanistan on Dec. 5.

This marks the first time Afghan aircraft were used in support of the unit's Pathfinder Academy.

"Once we leave and the Afghans take over all sling loads and cargo movements will be conducted with Afghan aircraft," said Sgt. Wyndol Shurley, a team leader with the Pathfinders, 2-25 AVN, originally from Hawkinsville, Ga. "With our aircraft such as the CH-47 Chinook and [UH-60] Black Hawk, the cargo hook is fixed on the outside of the aircraft. The Afghan helicopters are different with the cargo hooks suspended on the inside of the aircraft making it important for the Afghan Pathfinders to be familiar with them.

The KAW supported the Pathfinder students of 4th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps, by familiarizing them with the Mi-8 aircraft and assisting them in performing sling load operations. Sling load operations are the task of attaching cargo to a rotary wing aircraft so that the cargo is transported underneath.

"I am happy to have had the experience of going through this class," said Abdolkarim, an Afghan soldier, with the 4-205th. "I will never forget the skills I learned here. I gained a lot of experience."
This was the fourth Pathfinder Academy supervised by cadre from the 25th CAB.

Each academy has given more control and responsibility to the soldiers of the 4th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps, with the goal of allowing them to train their own students. For this academy two students from previous classes returned as instructors where they taught more than 75 percent of the class.

"I taught most of the practical portions of the class to included slings loads, rigging a container, and hand and arm signals," said Sgt. Zabiullah, an infantry soldier and Pathfinder instructor with 4-205th. "I'm motivated that our own helicopters came here to support our training. This is a positive step forward in gaining the ability to defend our own nation."

Six soldiers graduated Dec. 7 during a ceremony attended by the Commander of Regional Command South, Major General Robert Abrams.

Through the four Pathfinder Academies, the 2-25 Pathfinders have trained and graduated a total of 32 new Pathfinders.

Article by Capt. Richard Barker, Army.mil