KABUL, Afghanistan – What do you get when you combine Afghan maintainers, American advisors, contractors and Russian helicopters? Air Force Master Sgt. William Hensley would tell you you’d get one of the most rapidly advancing mission sustainment capabilities in Afghanistan.
“The overall quality of maintenance, training and Afghan motivation has greatly increased,” said Hensley, 440th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron intermediate maintenance inspection advisor, who is serving his second year-long rotation working with Afghan Mi-17 helicopter maintainers here in an advisory role.
Three years ago, Hensley was a quality assurance advisor for the Afghan air force. He is deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and hails from Ravenna, Ohio.
“When I was here before, I started the quality control [and] quality assurance process in place now,” he explained. “The idea of quality assurance just wasn’t here before.”
He emphasized the importance of quality-control programs in Afghanistan, as well as stateside.
“The Afghans have accountability of the work they do,” Hensley said. “They know someone will look at it, so they do the best work they can. It’s no different than the QC process at home.”
The process has allowed for more Mi-17s to be available for missions supporting ground forces, casualty evacuation and supply movement, Hensley said. “We’ve established maintenance timelines as we’ve further developed the QC/QA process,” he explained. “We’re able to keep aircraft flowing in and out of the maintenance and QC schedule, so they’re not all down at one time. This allows leadership to plan missions based on available aircraft.”
Hensley said he uses his previous deployment as a building block to train and mentor the Afghan maintainers.
“About 85 percent of the Afghans remember working with me before,” he said. “It allowed me to build on relationships I already had with them. That’s a huge advantage when working in an advisory role.”
Hensley said he has an optimistic outlook for the future of the Afghan air force, and said he hopes to be able to see how much further they will come.
“Progress is always going to be here,” he said. “They are steadily improving all the time. I know they’re going to get better, and maintenance is what they’re doing the best. I would jump at the opportunity to come back.”