Desert Hawk Takes Command of Aviation Operations in Salerno
February 21, 2007
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan - Soldiers from the active, Reserve and National Guard components of the Army joined together to form one of the largest attack aviation task forces to operate in Afghanistan Feb. 17.
Task Force Talon passed its mission of providing air-assault, attack, convoy, troop and supply and movement along with a myriad of other aviation operations to Task Force Desert Hawk, headed by the 1st Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment of the Arizona National Guard, in a transfer of authority ceremony.
"These two organizations represent excellence in Army aviation," said Col. Kelly Thomas, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade commander. "You are a team of teams, and you continue to impress me. You are [one of the many] reasons we do great work here in Afghanistan."
TF Talon assumed aviation operations in March 2006 and set a new standard for other task forces to follow by rebuilding four fuel and armament points that have become the model for the rest of the theater. TF Talon also constructed and established direct maintenance facilities and created a battalion level operation area for the first time in this region of Afghanistan - all this was accomplished without the loss of a single Soldier.
"I would like to thank my company commanders and first sergeants because we could not have accomplished [any of this] without their leadership," said Lt. Col. Collier Lipple, TF Talon commander.
As the largest unit to deploy in Arizona history, the 1st Bn. 285th Reg. has transitioned from the AH-64A Apache to the AH-64D Apache Longbow, the world's most advanced multi-role combat helicopter. In April 2006, the unit deployed to Fort Hood, Texas to undergo unit fielding and training in preparation for their deployment here in support of the 82nd CAB.
"It was grueling ... a lot of training," said Spc. Geneve Mankel, flight operations specialist and a senior at Arizona State University.
"I think we're up for the challenge," said Maj. Michael Jackson, air medical physician assistant. Jackson, an Active Guard/Reserve Soldier, is an emergency room physician at the Western Army Aviation Training Site, Marana, Az.
"This is an important milestone for both task forces," said Lt. Col. Donald Kwan, TF Desert Hawk commander. "We owe it to our Soldiers and their families to ensure that everyone returns home safely and to leave Afghanistan better able to support herself."