Afghanistan's Aviation Future Meets America's Aviation Legends

Story Number: NNS110817-02Release Date: 8/17/2011 5:05:00 AM
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By MC1 (SW/AW) Chris Fahey, NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (NNS) -- Some of America's most legendary astronauts met with four of the officer trainees who represent the future of the Afghan Air Force August 16.

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and former NASA astronauts Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell met the Afghan Air Force trainees during a visit to Camp Eggers, home of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan. The group discussed the space environment, what aviation platforms the Afghan pioneers would fly and both groups' mutual love for flying.

"Passion is important in every occupation," said Armstrong. "A person without it can never beat a person with it ... and it's encouraging to see this young [Afghan] group's enthusiasm and excitement."

"That's right," added Lovell who commanded the infamous Apollo 13 mission, brought home safely after suffering a near-catastrophic failure en route to the Moon. "Take it from me ... if you don't have an honest passion for this game then, baby, you're in the wrong business-these students seem to have it."

After meeting the American astronauts, the Afghan officers just beginning their aviation careers expressed excitement at the opportunity to meet and talk with those who have reached the absolute peak of aeronautical achievement.

"This is the best day of my life!" said Lt. Fatama Abteen, one of a small handful of female Afghan Air Force trainees. "I'm overwhelmed and extremely excited. It's hard to communicate how much this means to me."

Fellow trainee Lt. Khan Agha Ghaznavi echoed Abteen's enthusiasm for the meeting and how it has impacted him.

"In school," said Ghaznavi, "I had so many questions about space that my teachers could not answer. To actually meet these great men who have actually been to the moon and could answer my questions directly ... it's overwhelming. This was such a historical day for me, and I'll remember it forever."

Training for the Afghan aviators is assigned to the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron, a NATO coalition unit that advises Afghan Air Force commanders and senior staff. NTM-A is a coalition of 33 nations that works in coordination with NATO nations and partners, international organizations, donors, and nongovernmental organizations to support the government of Afghanistan as it generates and sustains the Afghan National Security Forces.

Images and video of the event are available on NTM-A's website at

For more news from NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan, visit

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