TF Six Shooters complete aviation training at NTC
September 27, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Some 500 Soldiers with 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Six Shooters, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI), returned home last week after spending nearly a month of training in California's Mojave Desert.
Soldiers participated in aviation training exercises at Fort Irwin's National Training Center, developing skills they will directly use for combat. They conducted training alongside 1st Brigade Combat Team, with the mission of supporting the ground force commanders and supporting the 1st BCT Security Force Assistance Advisory Teams.
The SFAAT mission is derived of a small contingent of U.S. military forces to enable and advise Afghan forces. It serves as a transitional tool, allowing the Afghan military to lead from the front and take charge of the mission, while receiving mentorship and development from U.S. forces.
Task Force Six Shooters are composed of three out of four Army aircraft: UH-60 Black Hawks, OH-58D Kiowa Warriors and AH-64D Apaches. For the training rotation, company-size elements of CH-47 Chinooks were attached to the unit. They used their air assets to conduct air-assaults, provide convoy security and conduct simulated medical evacuation scenarios.
"NTC in support of 1st Brigade was exactly what our squadron task force needed," said Lt. Col. Erik Sweet, Task Force Six Shooters commander. "To exercise all aircraft types, missions set and command and control under realistic combat conditions, a challenging terrain, high (operational) tempo and free-thinking OPFOR (opposing force) helped our pilots, NCOs and Soldiers understand what to expect in Afghanistan."
Sweet continued, saying that with 1st BCT reorganizing to a Security Force Assistance Brigade, the squadron's aviation tactics, techniques and procedures had to change as well. Sweet said he felt that it was important to understand the role the aviation task force plays in support of SFAAT, as it is the future of Afghanistan.
"Aircraft maintainers as well as pilots also received training," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael Mogg, squadron senior instructor pilot, who noted the brutal environment at NTC. "Every pilot and maintainer experienced high temperatures, lots of dust and minimal distractions to training. NTC gave a baseline to build a foundation for the deployment."
The environment at NTC closely mimics that of Afghanistan. With its many mountains, desert terrain, and high temperatures, NTC made for a relentless training area.
First Lt. Alex McHale, a Black Hawk pilot with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, shared very good experiences during training.
"Being able to see all the moving pieces of a squadron in action (was) very humbling and by far an awesome experience," McHale said. "Being able to meet the ground force commander that I was supporting for an air-assault and talking with him face to face during the planning process was an amazing opportunity, something that I consider a valuable part of establishing a firm foundation of understanding the combined mission. Being able to participate in helping the ground force commander achieve … success was an awesome feeling.
"Watching every moving piece come together from the aviation side of the house and ground side of the house turn into a truly impressive operation and result in decisive victory made me feel extremely privileged to be part Task Force Six Shooters," he concluded.
The Six Shooters returned from Afghanistan with 10th Combat Aviation Brigade almost a year ago after being deployed for a 12-month rotation.
"I am immensely proud of all of our Soldiers," Sweet said, "and what they accomplished at NTC for support of the 1st BCT SFAB."
(Gerohimos serves with 6-6 Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Six Shooters.)