Black Hawk training
Fort Lee troops board an Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter at Fort A.P. Hill.

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (April 25, 2012) -- A New York Army National Guard assault helicopter battalion aerial gunnery exercise at Fort A.P. Hill April 17 presented a unique training opportunity for participants of the 16th Ordnance Battalion Sustainment Warrior Field Training Exercise rotation 12-19.

In true "Army of the 21st Century" fashion, the military organizations teamed up to maximize training time, resources and realistic operational logistics experiences for more than 460 Basic Officer Leaders Course, Army Leaders Course and advanced individual training Soldiers from Fort Lee -- collectively known as Task Force 16.

Examples of interaction between the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation Regiment (Assault) and Task Force 16 included logistics Soldiers serving as a "combat troop load" aboard the aircraft and sustainment units supplying equipment so the flight crews could practice sling loading at various A.P. Hill sites.

"This arrangement was mutually beneficial in every regard," noted Capt. Voley Martin, operations officer for the 3/142nd Regiment. "Sustainment Soldiers had the opportunity to fly on helicopters to move from training mission to training mission, and the aviation unit was able to maximize limited training time while our crews practiced vital skills. Flying helicopters without a load is like infantry Soldiers training without ammunition. The weight difference with passengers is significant, and our pilots need to train with loaded birds."

Through rapid coordination, the Sustainment Task Force and the aviation battalion successfully crafted a joint training operation utilizing five UH-60 Blackhawks for daylight missions and three for night operations, according to 1st Lt. Jacob Haag, Task Force 16 plans officer. "We safely conducted passenger movement operations and successfully completed 38 sorties under daylight and night-vision-goggle flying conditions," he said. "The UH-60 crews also practiced night rigging and sling loading with two vehicles."

The aerial component enhanced the realism of the SWFTX training that already includes a wide variety of missions like the management of an entry control point, urban operations lanes, mounted platform live fire training, military skill-specific tasks and more, explained Lt. Col. Sean M. Herron, Task Force 16 and 16th Ordnance Battalion commander.

"The Soldiers also participated in night logistics convoy missions using palletized load systems from the 508th Transportation Company and drivers from the 11th Trans. Bn. that pushed the student leadership by adding complexity and fatigue to the already full training program," Herron added.

Several military occupational specialties also received training that is normally not part of SWFTX rotations. The 88-November transportation management coordinators manifested the air passengers at two nodes -- an embarkation point and debarkation point. They controlled movement, staging and manifesting at these nodes like actual movement control teams conducting arrival/departure airfield control group operations downrange.

In addition, most of the participating quartermaster Soldiers were able to observe sling rigging/loading and movement conducted by the aviation battalion, Herron said. Finally, logistics interns training with the BOLC class also learned about personnel trans-shipment during this operation -- an opportunity that demonstrated to them the complexity of these operations and provided them an experience that will aid them in their future assignments.

Tyler Lara, an Army intern, took part in a nighttime reconnaissance mission. "This gave me the opportunity to see the capabilities of Army Aviation and how much they can contribute to any mission," he said. In his future logistics career with the Army, Lara could end up working with a number of different operations and organizations. He said experiences like these give him a better appreciation for all the men and women in the service.

"With any training event, leaders are encouraged to utilize any assets available to make the experience realistic, multi-faceted and demanding, just like actual field operations in a deployed environment," Herron said. "It is through opportunities like this that training can truly be maximized and create lasting experiences for Soldiers as they continue to prepare for our most challenging missions -- most notably, conducting vital jobs during deployments to theaters of war."

More photos of the aerial gunnery exercise can be seen at

Page last updated Wed April 25th, 2012 at 15:31