By Staff Sgt. Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.June 17, 2008
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii (Army News Service, June 17, 2008)-The Soldiers of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade recently completed a critical step in their deployment cycle with a rotation at the Pohakuloa Training Area, on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The 25th CAB was able to achieve a multitude of training requirements while supporting 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, according to Col. Mike Lundy, CAB commander.
The training at Pohakuloa prepared the brigade to deploy three aviation battalion task forces to the National Training Center, Lundy said. He said these task forces will support three maneuver brigades during separate NTC rotations as they conduct their final collective training event prior to deployment to Iraq.
One of the traiing missions at PTA was helicopter gunnery, which requires individual qualification on aircraft weapons systems and progressions through crew qualifications. Weapon systems vary with each unit's aircraft, ranging from machine gun and 2.75 rocket firing to Hellfire missiles. OH-58D Kiowa Warrior pilots also fired M-4 Assault Rifles from their aircraft cockpits.
Additionally, all the battalions conducted convoy live-fire operations to prepare the brigade's support Soldiers for Combat Logistics Patrols and Downed Aircraft recovery operations.
The 3-25th Aviation, led by Lt. Col. Gregory Baker, provided continuous support to the PTA rotation with MEDEVAC helicopters prepared to conduct medical evacuation, while simultaneously conducting training scenarios with all the units rotating through PTA.
The battalion also conducted ground reflexive fire and close quarters marksmanship live-fire ranges to ensure aircrews and support Soldiers are able to fight in the ground environment. The battalion closed the rotation by providing Medium Lift CH-47 and Utility UH-60 passenger and cargo operations, flying missions from Oahu to PTA every other day.
"That's what we do, provide the best aviation support possible to whomever needs it," said Baker, as he talked about the number of different mission profiles his general support aviation battalion conducted.
2-6th Cavalry also rotated to PTA with the primary focus of aerial gunnery.
"Our primary mission is reconnaissance and security operations as well as light attack operations," said Lt. Col. Kenneth Hawley, squadron commander, 2-6th Cav. "He said the aircrews conducted live engagements with the helicopters' .50-caliber machine guns, 2.75 rockets and Hellfire missile systems.
The 209th Aviation Support Battalion had a different focus due to the nature of the battalion's mission.
"Easily put, [our mission was] the support and sustainment of the brigade," said Lt. Col. Ramsey Bentley, commander, 209th ASB.
"The most difficult task was the coordination and movement of all personnel, vehicles and equipment for the brigade to and from PTA and the planning and conduct of 10 different convoy live-fire iterations," he said.
During it's time at PTA, the battalion was able to conduct extensive convoy operations, port operations, LSV/ boat-load operations, convoy live-fire, convoy and Downed Aircraft Recovery Team live-fire, crew-served weapons ranges such as vehicle mounted MK-19 and the execution of FARP operations for refueling and re-arming all of the brigade's aircraft.
One of the most challenging tasks belonged to 2-25th Aviation. The battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. David Francis, served as an aviation task force for 3rd IBCT.
The battalion, serving as Task Force Diamond Head, normally consists of 30 UH-60L Blackhawks, but was augmented for the exercise with 10 OH-58D's from 2-6 Cav., and a forward support medical team of two Blackhawks from 3-25th. Francis said his task force conducted the full range of aviation missions from attack helicopter operations to assault helicopter, medevac and air traffic control.
"This is the first time since the redeployment that we've been able to train as a task force headquarters, so this training event has been critical for our unit because we will be the aviation task force headquarters at NTC," Francis said.
"The most rewarding thing about what we've done here is we've given 3rd IBCT Soldiers the opportunity to employ Army aviation attack assets, medevac and assault helicopters in training before they have to do it in combat," said Francis.
(Staff Sgt. Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. works for the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office)