Division West trains Calif. Army National Guard aviators
September 17, 2012
FORT HOOD, Texas -- A California Army National Guard Chinook helicopter unit training here before deploying to Afghanistan practiced transporting troops last week using 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers who are also getting ready to deploy overseas.
Division West's 166th Aviation Brigade is conducting post-mobilization training for the Soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, out of Stockton, Calif., and arranged to have them support the local Soldiers during a field exercise.
"It's a great opportunity to be able to train with a unit that wants to do some tactical training," said Capt. Jacob Ring, a team chief with 1st Battalion, 351st Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, and team chief for the California unit's mobilization. "It's exactly the sort of mission (the California Soldiers) will be doing downrange, so the ability to do that here is going to help them get ready for that mission."
The first day the units worked together, the National Guard unit loaded Soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, onto their CH-47 Chinook helicopters and dropped them off at a training range at night. The next day, a Chinook returned to the area and picked up three groups of Soldiers, one at a time, and inserted each group at a new location, quickly rotating the 1st Cavalry Soldiers through training lanes where they practiced raid, reconnaissance and ambush techniques.
The training plan called for the California Soldiers to repeat the rotations the next day, then extract all the 1st Cavalry Soldiers from the range that night, under cover of darkness.
"Most of the stuff in Afghanistan moves by Chinook. This mission was basically the typical mission set that we're going to be doing once we're overseas," said 1st Lt. Chase Ross, of Concord, Calif., a pilot and platoon leader with 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment. "We'll pick them up and then we'll drop them on another target. We're practicing time-on-target and our navigation, and talking on the radios with those other units helps us, as well."
Having the National Guard unit train with the Fort Hood unit "greatly enhances not just our ability to get these units ready to go downrange and their ability to support the ground troop commanders downrange, but it also gives III Corps units here at Fort Hood an opportunity to train with aviation assets that they might not ordinarily have," Ring said. "Forty-nine percent of all aviation in the United States Army is reserve component, and all those reserve component aviation forces come through Fort Hood to go downrange. (Training together is) a great win-win for Division West, for III Corps and for the reserve component units getting ready to go downrange."
In the relatively short time the California Soldiers have been at Fort Hood, they have also trained with Soldiers of Fort Hood's Company F, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and the 81st Civil Affairs Battalion; and the Army Reserve's 993rd Transportation Company, which is being trained by Division West's 120th Infantry Brigade for a deployment.
"It's a great training opportunity, because you get little scenarios and coordination that wouldn't ordinarily happen with just an observer controller giving them an (air mission request) with no passengers," Ring said. "We get to deal with real units, and the coordination aspects of that, and some of the little issues that arise that add really realistic training value for our aircrews."
Flying with groups of Soldiers aboard the Chinook is familiarizing Spc. Jesus Camacho, of Woodland, Calif., crew chief with 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, with all the things he will be doing in Afghanistan.
"It gets me a little bit more oriented," Camacho said. "I'm getting used to people jumping on and off the aircraft, what to be aware of, what they might do, what they might not do, how to talk to them. It's a lot different from not having any passengers on the aircraft.
"It's good training, overall. I feel like I've learned a lot."