May 7th, 2010
08:21 AM ET

Female pilot helps Afghan air force take off

[cnn-video url=http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/05/05/holmes.afghan.air.force.cnn]

Decades ago, Afghanistan's air force was in full operation. Today, that air force is being rebuilt, with some of the same helicopters and some of the same pilots as well - including the first woman in the Afghan Air Corps and currently the only one.

The only time Capt. Latifa Nabizada left the force was to flee to Pakistan when the Taliban took over in the 1990s - a woman pilot was a prime target for them.

"I wanted to be a pilot since I was a child," she says. "I also, as a woman, felt it was a responsibility to serve my country. So I joined 20 years ago. ... I stayed in because it's the love of my life, and I still feel the responsibility to not give it up."

Today, she is one of about 50 pilots training in Kabul, with a few others elsewhere in Afghanistan. And U.S. forces are helping mentor the pilots, training them on modern air force techniques for the 50 or so aircraft in the Afghan air force fleet.

Nabizada revels in the new training: "I've seen remarkable changes since we started this. We get training in air traffic control, pre-flight checklists, English language, instruments, navigation. These are skills we didn't have before."

On the training base in Kabul, a regular sight is Nabizada's 4-year-old daughter Malali. 

"Being a pilot and a mother is hard, actually," Nabizada says. "My husband is a doctor in the air force and we have no one to take care of her, so she comes with me every day. One day I'd like to see childcare in the air force."

Until then, Malali learns first hand about her country's air force and her mother's groundbreaking role. Will she follow in her mother's footsteps in the future? "Exactly," says Nabizada. "She will be a pilot in the future."

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