Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The 81st Fighter Squadron has graduated its last class of Afghan A-29 Super Tucano student pilots, the Air Force announced this week.
The squadron, a geographically separated unit assigned to the 14th Flying Training Wing at Mississippi's Columbus Air Force Base, on Nov. 13 graduated its last Afghan Air Force class in a program that spanned five years.
In that time the program graduated more than 30 student pilots and 70 maintenance technicians.
The pilots graduated Friday and the Air Force issued a press release Tuesday, the same day Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced that the United States will withdraw 2,500 troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by Jan. 15.
According to the Air Force, Afghan instructors will lead the next phase of the A-29 program as it transitions to Afghanistan.
"To those who will defend the skies over Afghanistan, I offer my congratulations," said Kelli Seybolt, deputy under secretary of the Air Force for international affairs. "Your selfless service and dedication to duty bring great credit upon yourselves, your families, your Air Force and your country."
"Their mission is not easy," said H.E. Roya Rahmani, Embassy of Afghanistan ambassador to the United States. "They are aware of the challenges and responsibilities that it entails; but they also realize it is not only important, but crucial, for future security of our country."