<b>FORT IRWIN, Calif. </b>- Although only insurgents need be alarmed by the sound of chopper blades flying overhead, the sheer power of an Apache helicopter has the ability to instill a sense of awe in any person. The Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, attached to 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, have no such feeling. These Soldiers, stationed at Forward Operating Base Miami for the National Training Center rotation, work on Apaches and Blackhawks every day.

"This is the first time I've been working with ground troops," said Warrant Officer Maja Smith, 1/2 ARB Apache pilot. "I was stationed in Korea and didn't have a chance to work with them before. I'm confident we are going to do a good job, both here and overseas."

The unit is attached to 1st HBCT over the course of the NTC rotation to help train both units in air/ground missions.

"We are here to support 1st HBCT and teach them how to integrate with air assets," said Warrant Officer Smith. "This training teaches me how to interact with ground guys, and I'm benefiting a lot from this training. I've been flying Apaches for about three years now and I love it. My favorite part is pulling the trigger, sending rounds down range to support our ground troops."

Lieutenant Colonel Michael Hosie, 1/2 ARB commander, has been proud of his unit's work so far.

"Our battalion is at NTC to train for our deployment," said Lt. Col. Hosie. "But we're also training with 1st HBCT. They're a great team, and we are happy to work with them and train on air-ground integration and ensure aviation is part of the fight and in all aspects of the fight.
But keeping the birds up in the sky requires more than steadfast pilots. It requires resolute commanders, tireless mechanics and devoted crew chiefs.

"My job is to maintain the aircraft and make sure every inspection is done and the aircraft is ready to fly when the pilots come out," said Spc. Crystal Brown, Apache Helicopter repair crew chief. "It's important because it gets the pilots up to do their mission. I've wanted to do this job ever since I was 10 years old. My dad was also (in) helicopter repair, so my favorite part is the entire job. Being able to work on the Apaches is awesome."

The job of a crew chief, however, requires a tireless Soldier, one who is ready and willing to work at all hours to make sure the helicopters remain mission-ready.

"The hardest part about my job is working long hours; it is very strenuous because you have to turn wrenches consistently and constantly," said Spc. Brown. "I'm very proud of what I do; I'm the only female crew chief in 1/2 ARB. (But) it's one of the best feelings in the world when your team does a successful mission. You sit there and you're waiting for the aircraft to launch, then you finally see them take off and go into the sunset. It's a really good feeling."

Above all else, a sense of espirit de corps reigns over FOB Miami as Soldiers of all ranks work together with the procession of helicopter blades.

"We have to have team cohesion because we all have to catch (issues and problems with the helicopters)," said Spc. Brown. "So team cohesion is one of the greater things we need in our company."

"I couldn't be happier with (my battalion), the great training this week, working with team fundamentals and guys on the ground." said Lt. Col. Hosie. "But this week we are focused on those core fundamentals, those Soldier skills, which will translate into success during full spectrum operations then ultimately our deployment. This deployment will probably have a lot of surprises. There are a lot of uncertainties over there, probably a lot of challenges, but also, great opportunities to serve our country, be part of a good team, and make our Families proud of us and our mission."

As two Apaches take off from the airstrip at FOB Miami, their repair crews watch with bated breath as they take off into the sunrise, off on some mission that will support 1st HBCT in contributing to the stability of "Iraq" as a whole. Though the scenario is make-believe, no one in the Mojave Desert is taking it anything but seriously. The mountains surrounding "The Box" and the ever-changing sand make it impossible to think otherwise.

"We work through the ground forces, and our relationship with the Raider Brigade is really the key to our success in supporting the Iraqi Security forces," said Lt. Col. Hosie. "We've gotten to know the Raider Brigade, and the battalion commanders, but we are then taking that next step of knowing who the stability/transition team leaders are because they are going to be our link to the Iraqi Security forces. By contacting them, we are aware of the Iraqi Security force operations, and we can bring aviation into that fight beyond U.S. Forces."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16