They fly, but can they float' Air Cavalry Brigade readies their birds for boats
December 14, 2007
CAMP VIRGINIA, Kuwait - There are some Soldiers from 1st Air Cavalry "Warrior" Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, who will be headed home in time for Christmas.
But there are some Warriors that will stay behind to take on the daunting task of preparing helicopters to sail off to sea - something aircraft aren't supposed to do.
Well, that isn't the whole truth.
Actually, they'll be prepping the helos for safe travel aboard a ship docked at Kuwait Naval Base located along the Persian Gulf.
For Hayward, Calif., native Spc. Garret Towne, an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter crew chief for Company C, 1st "Attack" Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., this mission signals the end of operations in the Middle East for his unit.
"We're wrapping up the whole tour (for 1-227th). Most of the main body has already returned to Fort Hood and we're just out here making sure the birds get on the ships," said Towne.
Town and his fellow Soldiers are at the port primarily to disassemble the blades from the Apaches before loading them up on to the ship, he said.
"(The ship) is just a really tight fit, so the blades have to come off - they want the birds as small as possible," said Towne.
Fortunately for the port crew, not all of the helos will have to be loaded onto the ships; some of them were already flown back to the states on an Air Force C-5 cargo plane, said New York native Sgt. Carlos Llaverias, an Apache crew chief for Co. B, 1-227th.
Because the port crew is mainly from an attack battalion, they rely on the help of L3 Vertex, a contractor company, to take care of the UH-60 Black Hawks and CH-47 Chinooks that need to be disassembled and loaded, said Llaverias.
Along with taking the blades off the aircraft, the Soldiers also have to help ground guide them onto the ship on a day that most people will be taking off, Llaverias said.
"Christmas for us is going to be pretty busy because we've got to load all these aircraft and it's a long process," he said. "It's like we're wrapping 30 million dollar presents."
Even though he'll miss the holidays and get home last - he's riding with the cargo on the ship - Llaverias isn't in a hurry to get home, he said.
"I'm not really in a rush to get back (home), that's why I volunteered to (work the port)," said Llaverias. "My wife is in Afghanistan so she won't be home for another four months."
But, for Llaverias, the Persian Gulf offers a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of the high-paced operational tempo in Iraq, he said.
"It's nice out here. It's close to the water - you get to see more than just Camp Taji (Iraq)," he said.
The Soldiers may miss the holidays, but they feel it's a necessary part of the mission. And their resolve to complete that mission is evident in their attitudes.
"What we're doing is important; it's the only way we're going to get these birds back," said Llaverias. "I felt like I made a contribution to the mission. I came to work everyday ready for work."
After the port mission is complete, Llaverias will set off into the sunset like the end of an old western.
Except in this case he won't be ridding - he'll be sailing.