The Afghan night watchmen heard the thump-thump-thump of a helicopter, which became louder as he listened. Suddenly, the silhouette of a Russian-made MI17 helicopter crossed surprisingly close overhead, the engine noise receding as the helicopter disappeared into the nearly moonless night.

What the night watchmen couldn’t know was that the MI17 helicopter was being flown by his fellow Afghans. Inside the helicopter sat an Afghan pilot student. Next to him sat an instructor, who was not an American, but another Afghan, the first Afghan Instructor Pilot in the program’s history. Both wore Night Vision Goggles (NVG). Inside the helicopter, MAG instructors oversaw the training with approval. NVG flight training was a difficult skill to both teach and learn, and the Afghans were exceeding expectations as both instructor and student.

In 2014, MAG was part of the team that provided aviation training to the Special Mission Wing, a unique aviation element within the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense. MAG instructors taught and advised dozens of Afghan Instructor Pilots, Pilots, Crew Chiefs, and Door Gunners on the safe operation of the MI17 helicopter. MAG also provided maintenance support and training to the Special Mission Wing.

Joe Paull, MAG EVP for Global Operations, is an accomplished veteran of the Non-Standard Rotary Wing (NSRW) program. He first deployed in 2007 to build Afghanistan airlift and air reconnaissance capability. “The capability, professionalism, and infrastructure of the SMW have evolved by leaps and bounds over the last two years. MAG’s mission is to help create a highly effective, proficient and safe unit that can be sustained by the Afghans for the long haul.”