BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) — With Afghan troops increasingly leading combat operations on the ground, the Afghan Air Force's fledgling helicopter fleet based in Kabul has learned new techniques to support them from the air.

The U.S. Army's 101st Combat Aviation Brigade started a new training program at Bagram Air Field for Afghan helicopter pilots to learn how to perform air assault missions. The brigade and its trainers are part of the Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 101st Airborne Division, the Army's only air assault division.

The ability of Afghan helicopters to quickly drop soldiers into combat is a new and critical role.

Afghan National Army and police have been slowly taking the place of American infantry units in the ground fighting, but they were still relying heavily on American planes and helicopters to support them with medical evacuations and combat operations, said Col. Paul Bontrager, the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade commander.

"They were replacing us on the ground, maybe not the same capability, but in the air, they were just not replacing us where they needed," he said.

In February, Bontrager sent a four-man team from his brigade to Kabul to teach crew and pilots from the 377th Afghan Air Force. They started with classroom training, then simulator rehearsals and then moved on to air assault exercises. Traditional air assault techniques include rappelling and fast roping, sling loading cargo and providing transportation for infantry units. The Afghan helicopter crews are just now starting to put their air assault training to use in combat missions in eastern Afghanistan.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Powerball ticket sold in Tennessee barely missed winning a share of an estimated $590.5 million prize. But the ticket has a nice consolation prize worth $1 million.

Officials say the Powerball ticket worth $1 million was sold in Chattanooga.

There's no word yet on who won.

A Powerball ticket sold at a supermarket in Zephyrhills, Fla., matched all six numbers selected Saturday night for the estimated $590.5 million prize. It's the highest Powerball jackpot in history.

The winning numbers were 10, 13, 14, 22 and 52, with a Powerball of 11.


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — The Chattanooga market will add hundreds of hotel rooms in the coming year, following four years of booming revenues for its hotel industry.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press ( ) reports at least 728 hotel rooms under construction are to be added this year and next, citing Smith Travel Research. That amounts to an increase of about 7.5 percent in the supply of hotel rooms in the market.

"That's a pretty stiff add," said Bobby Bowers, senior vice president of operations at Smith Travel Research.

That extra supply comes amid expectations for a busy summer tourism season but on the heels of a drop in demand so far this year.

According to Smith Travel Research, Chattanooga's hotel occupancy rates in the first three months of this year dropped 10.4 percent from the same period a year ago as demand fell and supply rose.

"That's definitely unfortunate, to say the least," Bowers said. "You're getting hit on both ends of the market. You definitely don't want that to happen when those new hotels are open."


CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A program to help soldiers get loans to purchase homes has gotten a permanent extension.

The Leaf-Chronicle ( reports officials gathered recently at Fort Campbell to announce that the Tennessee Homeownership for the Brave program will be permanently extended.

The sprawling Army post on the Kentucky-Tennessee border has a multitude of military families.

The program helps soldiers and veterans get loans at reduced rates. It has been a pilot program for two years, but the Tennessee Housing Development Agency says it has decided to keep the initiative.

"This is just one more way in which the burden can be eased a little bit and to know that this is available to our active-duty military, our national guard, and our veterans. I think this is just such a worthy program and making it permanent will have a tremendous impact," said U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who attended the announcement along with state Sen. Mark Green, state Rep. Curtis Johnson, Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers and Ralph Perrey, executive director of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.

The program offers home loan rates at a half-percent below THDA's regular rates.