By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2010 - Despite difficult terrain and extreme weather conditions, the commander of a task force in eastern Afghanistan said today, his aviation brigade has been successful in keeping the enemy at bay, supporting ground units and protecting the Afghan people.
Task Force Falcon has prevented the enemy from amassing combat power near U.S. and coalition forces, said Army Col. Donald Galli, who also commands the Army's 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade.
"When they did try to attack, they failed spectacularly in the face of our air crews," he added.
Afghanistan's difficult terrain and its unpredictable and extreme weather make those successes even more significant, Galli told Pentagon reporters in a video teleconference.
Though success can be measured by the numbers of missions flown or enemy fighters killed, Galli said, the level of protection it has provided for ground troops and the Afghan people is the true measure of its success.
"Task Force Falcon has directly contributed to disrupting terrorist networks, rooting out the enemies of Afghanistan and protecting the Afghan people," Galli said. "We've removed a significant amount of insurgents from the battlefield." But he and his task force realized their successes when the troops on the ground understood the task force would support them when they were in contact with the enemy, he added.
"We would always take extraordinary measures to save the lives of American soldiers, coalition forces and Afghan civilians," he said.
Galli said the enemy is a thinking enemy who is elusive, persistent and adaptive and routinely changes tactics. "But we stay one step ahead of them," he added.
Galli said his task force has flown 1,600 airlift missions since their deployment began almost a year ago. By the time they leave, he said, they will have logged 160,000 flight hours and moved 20,000 tons of cargo and more than 219,000 personnel.
Task Force Falcon's maintainers and shorter aircraft are ready to fly at a rate previously unheard-of in combat, the colonel said, supporting ground forces by flying more than 25,000 missions. Galli said the task force has conducted more than 900 air assaults, 5,700 reconnaissance and security missions and more than 3,300 medical evacuation missions, rescuing more than 5,000 coalition troops and Afghan civilians.
And Task Force Falcon is the first aviation brigade to partner with the Afghan military's air mission, Galli said.
"For the last 11 months, we've been partnering with the Afghan air force through [a] rotary-wing contingent," he said. "And we've been conducting several training programs for them, one of which is an air assault training program that works with Afghan commandos and the Afghan air force.
"We've also taught their crew chiefs how to maintain their aircraft and how to be crew chiefs," Galli continued, "as well as a medevac training program, and also to teach close combat attacks with their Hind helicopters. In our time here, we have seen their capability grow exponentially."
The Afghans are beginning to conduct air assault operations on their own, he noted.
Galli said he's encouraged that the Afghan people have taken note of the progress their military has made. "They were absolutely thrilled to see their military conducting missions," he said.
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