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ISAF conducts Aviation Civilian Casualty Conference

KABUL, Afghanistan – British Royal Air Force Air Commodore Mike Wigston, ISAF Joint Command’s director of air operations, discusses lessons learned from the Joint Incident Assessment Teams during the Aviation Civilian Casualty Conference January 17.

Story and photos by U.S. Army Lt. Col. David Olson
ISAF Public Affairs

KABUL, Afghanistan (January 19, 2012) — International Security Assistance Force officers from across Afghanistan traveled to Kabul to attend the Aviation Civilian Casualty Conference at the ISAF Headquarters, January 17 and 18.

Air Force Col. Brian Hastings, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force – Afghanistan vice commander and the organizer of the CIVCAS event, explained the purpose of the two-day meeting.

“The purpose of the ISAF Aviation CIVCAS Conference was to create a mechanism to bring air-minded coalition partners together to discuss lessons learned in order to evolve employment and civilian casualty mitigation techniques, tactics and procedures in support of current and future ISAF and U.S. missions in Afghanistan,” said Hastings.

British Army Lt. Gen. Adrian Bradshaw, ISAF deputy commander, welcomed guests to the event and explained how important this subject was to the war effort.

Bradshaw told the military members gathered that protecting the Afghan population is the primary objective of ISAF operations. He also said the elimination of CIVCAS events is a moral obligation and an operational necessity to ensure ISAF operational freedom of action. Eliminating Afghan civilian casualties is a high priority for the ISAF commander to earn the trust and support of the Afghan people.

Conference members discussed many topics including tactical directives, rules of engagement, CIVCAS statistics and clearance procedures. They also reviewed more than a dozen tactical scenarios, challenging the aviators and Regional Command representatives as to whether they should employ their ordnance or show tactical patience.

Army Brig. Gen. Marty Schweitzer, Regional Command – South deputy commanding general for operations, highlighted a key point.

“I spent 48 months in Afghanistan over the last decade and our air to ground integration is now at the PhD level,” Schweitzer said. “The degree of effort placed on CIVCAS mitigation is at an all time high.”

Air Force Maj. Gen. Tod Wolters, 9 AETF-A commander, challenged the members to strive for perfection.

“We are now at seven events,” said Wolters. “We need to go from seven to three events. Next, we’ll need to go from three to one and finally, we need to go from one to zero.”

Air crews need the courage to employ their weapons and make the right call in the air at 15,000 feet, Wolters added.

Air Force Col. Clay Hall, 455th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, Bagram Air Base, echoed the theme of perfection.

“Regarding precise execution, we strive for and expect perfection,” said Hall. Dedicated pre-deployment training is the key to success, he added. French Army Lt. Gen. Olivier de Bavinchove, ISAF chief of staff, reaffirmed ISAF’s dedication to protecting the Afghan people.

“It is good for us to learn lessons from each other,” de Bavinchove said. “We have done a lot to protect the Afghan population … [but] one CIVCAS is too much. We’ll try to reduce it as far as we can.”