101st Soldier logs last flight before retirement
August 19, 2011
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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Aug. 19, 2011)--During a warm afternoon Aug. 3, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Trevor Baucom, a Company C, 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade pilot, took his final flight over Fort Campbell, but this time as a passenger.
The flight marked the first time Baucom was back in a helicopter since he was injured in a tragic crash June 21, 2010, in southern Afghanistan, leaving him in a wheelchair and unable to fly. The crash also fatally injured one crew chief and other military members.
The flight was not only a way for Baucom to be in a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter one more time, but it also allowed him to honor all of the casualties. In particular, Staff Sgt. Brandon Silk, who was killed in the helicopter crash last year.
"It most certainly is fitting to think about them when you're doing something like this," Baucom said.
Baucom smiled as he watched fellow pilots and crew chiefs come out to the aircraft and secure it after the flight. Soldiers are why Baucom became a pilot.
Baucom, who was enlisted in the infantry before going to flight school, said his favorite part about flying Blackhawks was putting Soldiers on the ground.
"Just being up in the air is nice," he said with a smile.
The Soldiers, warrant officers and commissioned officers of 5th Bn., 101st Avn. Reg., 101st CAB, are what Baucom said he will miss the most about the unit.
Upon arriving back at the airfield, Baucom was surprised by an arch of water over the taxiway, which is a traditional send off for pilots during their final flight.
"I didn't think about it or expect it," Baucom said of the Fort Campbell Fire Department who sprayed water over the Blackhawk as the crew taxied back onto the flight line. "It was a good way to finish off the flight."
Despite the happiness of the day, Baucom said the flight was also a part of his healing process.
"This was definitely a nice day," he said. "And it provided a little bit of closure after the accident."
Captain Thomas D. Brewington, Company C commander, said Baucom hand-picked the crews he wanted to fly him.
"The flight was awesome, and a great way to send out a great Soldier," he said.
Brewington said Baucom was extremely dedicated to his job and brought an infantry mentality to the aviation world after having served in the 75th Ranger Regiment.
"He was a benefit to the company," Brewington said. "He was well liked. His loss will leave a huge void."
Brewington said Silk, Spc. Andrew Cleek, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brant Edwards, all brought something to the table. Cleek and Edwards were also both injured in the crash.
"It's hard to come in and get the company focused, but we just put one foot forward," he said. "We're doing what all of them would expect, and we're doing our jobs in honor of them."
Staff Sgt. Aidan J. O'Hare, the enlisted standardization instructor for Company C and the platoon sergeant at the time of the crash, said everyone who was in the unit at the time of the crash, especially Baucom, who has a daily reminder when he sits in his wheelchair, was thinking about Silk during the flight.
"He was amazing," O'Hare said of Silk. "He was extremely intelligent…he had those eyes that were always letting you know mischief was behind them."
O'Hare said Silk was a unit motivator.
"A lot of crew chiefs looked up to him as the one they wanted to be like," O'Hare said. "He was my second in command. He had an awesome sense of humor and was energetic."
O'Hare said Silk was a noncommissioned officer who had great potential and would have made an awesome platoon sergeant and first sergeant.
"I think everyone misses how great of a person he was and having him around," O'Hare said.
Silk joined the Army upon graduating high school after seeing the 9/11 attacks, despite ridicule from others. O'Hare said Silk knew he had to go support. His absence is felt heavily in the unit and Company C added a star to their unit patch to honor him.
"It was really hard for the guys when that happened," O'Hare said. "It was hard to pull through. I think if he could come down for a few minutes, he would tell them to keep working hard."
O'Hare said Silk himself is what keeps the Soldiers in Company C focused.
"He was a motivator and a guiding light for the guys on the deployment so they could come home safe and tell his story," O'Hare said.
Specialist Patrick C. Rice, a crew chief in Company C, said the final flight of Baucom was a way for the Army to show they are not forgetting about Soldiers that are hurt.
"He was happy," Rice said.
Rice said he wished Cleek, a fellow crew chief who was injured in the accident, could have been there to join in the flight.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chris M. Corcione, a pilot with Company C, said Silk was extremely well respected and had a huge heart.
"They all looked up to him," he said. "I'm not saying that as a standard line. He really cared about everyone he worked with. He was the company's character, and was a great NCO and person."
Corcione said the company honors Silk every day they fly.
"Everyone he worked with is a walking, living commemoration of Brandon Silk," he said.