Local man in Afghanistan as air advisor

Friday, February 5, 2010
Lewisburg resident Timothy J. McCann stands at the Kabul Military Training Center firing range in Afghanistan as a Russian-made Mi-35 attack helicopters flies off on a mission.

A Marshall County man has been training Afghanistan National Army Air Corps commandos, security forces, and presidential pilots how to control and communicate with Russian-made helicopters, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Air Force.

USAF Technical Sgt. Timothy J. McCann, his wife, Starlet, and their three daughters, Ashley, Jenna and Alexa, make their home in Lewisburg. Since his assignment at Kabul International Airport with the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, he's also been stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

McCann was stateside this week with "instructor duty" in Arkansas, according to USAF Public Affairs Officer Elizabeth Burke.

The 1996 Marshall County High School graduate is the son of Margaret and Charles Becton of Belfast and he visits home about three times a year, Burke said.

McCann, 32, received a one-year deployment in the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron in a two-man team to train Afghanistan Army Air Corpsmen. They've been dealing with soldiers, pilots and the Russian Mi-35 attack helicopter from a forward observation point.

On Monday, the Marshall County Tribune received an unclassified statement about McCann's activities.

Since October, McCann has been instrumental in helping the Afghans create a course, train, and graduate the country's first seven operational forward observers. Beyond mentoring Afghans, McCann is the 738th's Master Convoy Trainer. His convoy duties have included ferrying passengers and cargo throughout Kabul city and journeys to various forward operating bases to conduct practical live fire exercises with the commandos and helicopter pilots.

Under McCann's mentorship, the Afghanistan National Army Air Corps has created a crucial career field for that nation's military. Tactical exercises are held twice a week with pilots attending alongside the commandos. Recently, a presidential helicopter student pilot from McCann's class was tasked for a mission within 72 hours of graduation. Leaders from all levels have admired the students' new abilities and the increased protection provided during an Mi-35 escorted convoy. Classes are continuing and 12 more forward observers will soon graduate.

Largely because of McCann, the 438th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group is on schedule to complete the task of preparing the Afghans to independently operate their Air Corps before 2016. Currently, the Afghans have 45 military aircraft and less than 3,000 assigned personnel. Those numbers should increase to 154 aircraft and more than 8,000 personnel by 2016.

McCann is assigned to the 373d Training Squadron, Detachment 4, Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., as an aerospace ground equipment instructor. Before deploying to Afghanistan, he completed several weeks of intensive training on topics including: live-fire weapons operations; cultural awareness; convoy tactics; combat life saver certification; unexploded ordinance identification and mitigation; survival, evasion, resistance and escape tactics; conversational Dari language, and a full week of hands-on evasive driving.