I was born to fly.
Being a pilot was my great ambition from childhood. When I was playing with my friends, every time I was trying to be a pilot, making my hands look like wings. When I saw Top Gun, I was always trying to be cool like him. When we were wearing our flight suits, we have to fold our collars down to look more formal, but I was always leaving it up to look like Tom Cruise.
I just finished high school when my friend called and said he need my help. Because he knows my English is good, he needs my help for a test to get into the Air Force University. It was first time I heard of Air Force University. He said, “If you get in, they will send you to US or European countries to become a pilot.” As soon as he said “pilot”, a current ran through my body.
I went to take the test and scored enough to get into Air Force University. Before we graduated, the US advisors came to give an English test. When we did the test, I scored high enough to go to US and learn to fly. I learned at Fort Rucker Aviation Flight School in Alabama.
After 3 months training, four of us graduated as the first Afghan Black Hawk pilots. Our graduation ceremony was a very good one in Fort Rucker Aviation Museum. There were many US high rankers there—even one of the colonels who spent so much time in Afghanistan. I also received the late John McCain letter of commendation. I was very proud to have that. After, we came back to Afghanistan.
I went to Kandahar Airfield for MQT [mission qualification training]. We had US advisors for the training. After mission qualification training, mostly every pilot become a co-pilot. They have to fly 300 hours in mission and then become flight commander. But after graduation, I was directly an aircraft commander for Black Hawk. I served 28 provinces out from 34 provinces.
I was feeling proud because I was serving my country. I was Captain. I was also nominated for special promotion for a major rank. If Afghan government would not collapse, I would become a US 60 Black Hawk squadron commander in Northern Afghanistan.
My last flight in Kabul.
We had a night flight on 13 August 2021. Most of the provinces were already collapsed and Taliban took the control. The government prepare special force crew to go to Logar. We flew in the midnight and dropped those people in Logar. We get back around 2.30 in the morning. Early next morning, we found out they all surrendered to Taliban. That was the last flight I did.
When Taliban get control of the country, they were searching for pilots, intelligence officers and every single person who was working in the military. Everyone was scared. I was not living in my house. I was trying to hide in different locations.
One night, I was in my uncle’s house. It was almost midnight, and my sister called me very scared, saying, “Don’t come to the house. There are people standing in front of our house, screaming your name.” My mother was also scared. I could hear her voice telling my sister, “Tell Shahpur, please if someone get to your uncle’s house, just run from there. Run somewhere that even we don’t know.” I was so scared. I couldn’t fall asleep until the morning. Everything was getting worse, second by second. I was asking my US advisors and friends to get us out. Finally, we found a way to get in the airport and get out of the country.
I still want to fly.
When I came to US, I was searching for a job. A friend of mine knew about Upwardly Global. He said that “lots of pilots connect with Upwardly Global and they help them to find a job where they’re flying now. Maybe that will happen to you too.”
Upwardly Global helped me get my current job. I am working as a flight line technician in an airport with a good company. I am providing services for aircrafts, like fueling, transportation services, towing aircraft from one place to another, and some customer services.
Upwardly Global just told me about another training that they can help me with for a FAA certificate to become a flight dispatcher. This is also very interesting to me. I could work with an airliner, oversee flight safety and control. They told me that opportunity is there to be recruited to another job, bigger job from flight dispatcher. Maybe even as an airline pilot too!
Because this is what I am made for. This is what I’m born for. I want to fly again.
Read and listen to more of Shahpur’s and other Afghan stories here.