Armament crews keep Apaches ready for fight
October 6, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - When it comes to today's current fight, the AH-64D Apache helicopter's technology allows it to have sharp eyes on the ground and capable of unleashing deadly accurate fire from its weapons systems.
But the Apache's effectiveness is only possible through the preparations by hard-working armament crews.
Soldiers of Company D, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, keep the Apaches armed and ready for the fight at all times. It's a job that requires care and competence, according to the leaders in charge of Apache armament.
The Soldiers based here spend their days in hangars on the flight line maintaining the Apaches' weapons systems and electronics. The two-man crews who fly the attack helicopter depend on the armament electrical avionics repairers to keep their weapons systems properly loaded and always ready to engage.
"The big thing is, [armament crews] know every time they touch [an Apache], they have two lives in their hands," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hunter, an Apache armament senior non-commissioned officer from Waldorf, Md. "We take care of the pilots and they take care of the guys on the ground."
To provide close air support, the Apache's weapons array includes Hellfire missiles, rockets, flares and a 30 mm cannon.
While arming the Apache, Soldiers must be aware of safety issues ranging from static electricity to proper handling of live missiles, said Hunter.
"You have to reiterate [safety] because people get complacent. As a leader you've got to reiterate it and make sure they're doing it the right way."
Loading an Apache with rockets or missiles is not simply putting rounds in the chamber. The electrical weapon systems require diligent maintenance and upkeep.
"Anything with a wire on it is basically ours," said Hunter. "The Apache is basically a big computer and everything is done electronically."
When Apaches return from missions, the Soldiers of Co. D carefully examine the helicopters and check on the electronic boxes and weapon systems. Staff Sgt. Daniel Schremser, an armament maintenance supervisor from Warsaw, Mo., described the Apache as a "flying tank." He said together, the armament crews and mechanics keep the Apache flying and ready for combat.
"Without us and the mechanics, the aircraft is not going to fly. If one of us doesn't do our job, then the aircraft doesn't fly," said Schremser.
Hunter, who joined the Army in 1992, said his current armament platoon has been together for multiple deployments and praised their commitment.
"A lot of them are on their third or fourth deployment. The shop has been together for three or four years," said Hunter. "These guys have been doing this a long time together and a lot of them are like family."
Though they have been doing this for a long time, the helicopter's technology is continually evolving, he added. The Apache's systems are constantly being improved, and the armament crews attend classes to learn more about the helicopter.
"This job challenges you. I've been working in this field since 1997 and I still haven't seen everything," said Hunter. "You've got to keep learning the aircraft and you've got to be a sharp person to work in our [job]."
Being ready for the fight requires the efforts of Soldiers on the ground and Apaches in the air. The meticulous work of the armament crews make sure that attack aviation teams can provide close air support to Soldiers on the ground.