Tomahawk fury/Training event prepares pilots for war zone
August 8, 2008
FORT RUCKER, Ala.--Fort Rucker Soldiers got a taste of a real-world combat experience Friday during the 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment Tomahawk Fury training event. Student-pilots flew in formation to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., to fire Hellfire missiles for the first time during the AH-64D Apache Longbow and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior classes' culminating event.
The event required the students to plan a mission and fly in formation before firing Hellfire missiles. Both aircraft provide security for ground troops in the Global War on Terrorism through their weapons systems and presence.
"The mission was a good experience," OH-58D student-pilot WO1 Brian Tallent said. "It gave (students) in both airframes (the opportunity) to apply all the principles and techniques we've been taught throughout the course and go out with instructor-pilots in a simulated combat environment in order to better prepare us for the environment we're going to find ourselves in the near future."
Apache Longbow student-pilot WO1 Joe Wankelman agreed.
"This training is a great stepping stone for us," he said. "We're a nation at war and I feel that (the Hellfire shoot) helped prepare me for the mission at hand overseas. I will be able to go to a unit better prepared."
Tallent and Wankelman said they understand that being well-prepared to provide aviation support on the battlefield is critical to ensuring ground safety.
Both ground Soldiers prior to attending flight school, Tallent and Wankelman said they have personally seen Army Aviation's role on today's battlefield.
Tallent previously served as a Ranger and said Aviation was a "lifeline" for him.
"It was the focal part of everything I did. It was the ride in and the blanket of security overhead when things weren't going so great on the ground," he said. "It is 100 percent the reason I decided to go to flight school. I wanted to provide the guys on the ground the same assurance and security that I had."
Wankelman, who previously served as a forward observer, said he was responsible for calling in aviation support.
"When the ground got hot, aviation was our saving grace," he said. "They were the angels on the battlefield and they came through. That's why I wanted to become a pilot - to provide the same service for the Soldiers who are winning the war on the ground."