New York Guard aviation unit heads to Kuwait, saves money training across components at Hood
January 6, 2014
NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas -- Dedicated aviation mechanics of the Army Reserve and the New York National Guard have been improving critical skills and saving the Army money while training here.
B Company, 642nd Aviation Support Battalion of the New York National Guard is completing pre-mobilization training for its upcoming deployment to Kuwait. North Fort Hood is a mobilization platform for the Reserve.
The 11th Aviation Command recognized that there were aviation maintenance personnel from the New York National Guard mobilizing at Fort Hood and created a mutually beneficial arrangement: a hands-on training opportunity for the National Guard Soldiers which provides additional maintenance support for the 11th Aviation Command's Aviation Support Facility (ASF) at Fort Hood.
Enter 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, First Army Division West, which, according to Capt. Michael D. Bales, 1/351 operations officer, coordinates all aviation related training for the mobilizing reserve component units.
"We contact resident units on Fort Hood -- like the 4th Sustainment Brigade, the 615th Aviation Support Battalion of the 1st cavalry Division -- to set up partnered training events," Bales said. "In the case of 642nd, this included refueling, Downed Aircraft Recovery Team training, scheduled and unscheduled aircraft maintenance, vehicle recovery training, etc."
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Risewick, specialty shop supervisor from B Company, 642nd ASB said, "This is a unique, mutually beneficial experience building opportunity for my Soldiers. This is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The timing and the situation were perfect. The USAR aviation support facility at Fort Hood is authorized eight aircraft but currently has 13. They needed the assistance and our Soldiers benefitted from the training."
When a new aircraft arrives, it receives a 100 percent inspection, to include historical records of the aircraft and the evaluation of the airframe's condition. Following inspection, if the aircraft is deemed airworthy, it undergoes a maintenance test flight to further evaluate the aircraft's systems. Otherwise, the deficiencies found are noted and later corrected.
The cooperation across components provided the National Guard training and freed USAR valuable man hours to address other critical tasks. The aircraft that the New York National Guard worked on have already completed the inspection process and are now in the repair/replace phase. Without pressure to complete the deficiencies associated with the aircraft, a better learning environment is present, producing a better-trained Soldier. This training better prepared the junior enlisted Soldiers for their wartime mission and creates a more balanced skill set.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert Kunzer, also from the 642nd, said, "From a supervisory standpoint, this training has allowed me to better evaluate not only my Soldiers' skills, but also their leadership abilities prior to deploying."
Collaborations between Reserve and National Guard aviation Soldiers and units like the 642nd are uncommon, but are beneficial as the USAR saves money and the National Guard receives excellent training, all while operating in a resource constrained environment.
Had the National Guard scheduled and executed this four week long training at their home units, it would have come at significant additional cost to achieve the same training benefit.
Clint Ezell, the maintenance work supervisor at ASF Fort Hood, said, "Its right. It's smart. It's cheap."
The Reserve aviation Soldiers resolved or corrected one-third to one-half of the current deficiencies for selected aircraft at a huge cost savings in man hours. It also increased the availability of the mechanics that are organic to ASF Fort Hood, freeing them to work on flyable aircraft that meet day-to-day mission requirements.
"The primary day-to-day focus of an ASB is aircraft maintenance," Bales said. "At their home state, the 642nd only gets to conduct aircraft maintenance when they drill. Coming to Fort Hood allowed them to plan, coordinate and execute maintenance on a daily basis, in addition to the other training, like refueling, communications, and staff work that they accomplished to prepare for its Kuwaiti deployment.
"The 642nd was very proactive in reaching out to resident Fort Hood units after 1-351 made initial contact," Bales continued. "The 642nd reached further and coordinated additional training on its own."
Army Reserve aviation maintains the highest Operational Readiness rating across the Department of the Army, including the active component and the National Guard. Roughly half of the Army's aviation force is in the Reserve component and all of those aviation units mobilizing for deployment do so under the watchful eyes of 166th Aviation trainers.