By Sgt. Nathan J. J. Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsJuly 16, 2008
FORT HOOD, Texas - It's been a week and half of grueling, hot days in the field.
The AH-64D Apache helicopters land, Soldiers run out to reload, refuel and send them back out to blow up targets.
The end is in sight with only a couple days left of this high-paced madness.
All of a sudden, like a mirage in the distance, Sgt. Derek Cranford, an armament specialist from Biloxi, Miss., sees a little, brown-haired girl in a pink shirt running towards him! Maybe he's been working a little too much.
No, actually, it's just family day and little Lily Cranford is running to her dad's open arms.
Soldiers and aviators from the 1st "Attack" Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, welcomed family and friends to a day on the range.
The event was hosted by Lt. Col. Charles Dalcourt, commander of "First Attack".
Family day might have been exciting and fun, but Dalcourt had an ulterior motive.
"It's education. As we seek to educate the families as well as the Soldiers, they get a perspective of what their spouse or their loved one goes through out here in the field environment," said Dalcourt, a Baton Rouge, La., native.
Dalcourt and his Soldiers split the 106 guests up into two groups and showed them around the Forward Arming and Refueling Point where all the ground work happens before the Apaches take to the sky.
"There's simultaneity in training ... The focus isn't just the aviators going around down range and shooting," said Dalcourt. "The logistical aspects are just as important as the operational piece."
Family members got to see an Army field ambulance and learn about medical procedures used in the field.
They also had an opportunity to check out the new containerized kitchen.
"We brought the kitchen out on purpose to cook hot meals out here in an effort to get the cooks working on the new containerized kitchen that's absolutely phenomenal," said Dalcourt.
Geoffrey Horvath Sr., in town from Grand Rapids, Mich., visiting his son, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Geoffrey Horvath Jr., an Attack Apache pilot, and his family, thought the kitchen was great for the troopers.
"To tell you the truth, the thing that impressed me the most about that FARP was the kitchen. The care that they put into trying to make the Soldiers as comfortable as possible ... That stands out as far as I'm concerned," he said.
Horvath attended family day with his daughter-in-law, Heather, his grandson, Brandon, 4, and his son's step-daughter, Liv Scarlett, who is in high school.
Along with the health and welfare side, the guests also saw how aircraft get fueled and loaded with munitions.
Attack Soldiers not only explained how they fuel and arm the Apache, but also what type of fuel, rockets and rounds they use.
Once they had seen all they could see at the FARP, spouses and children headed to the gunnery range to experience the Apaches in action.
Watching the Apaches fire their rockets and 30 mm chain gun was quite an event, but maybe even more so for Horvath. His son was one of the actual pilots pulling the trigger that day, he said.
"This is the first time I've seen him fly; he's been in the service for six years ... there's an additional dimension when it's somebody that's actually related to you ... it's more meaningful - it was for me," said Horvath.
The Apache pilots did a couple low passes over the families so they could see them up close in flight. They also showed off their handy work by shooting and blowing up targets.
The children pointed in amazement as the aircraft flew right over their heads and went on to fire their weapons.
"You see (explosions) on TV, but it's not as real. That was real - how thrilling! That's my husband," said Heather.
The Apaches made multiple passes firing off all their rockets and expending all of their 30 mm rounds.
After the highly explosive demonstration was complete, the Apaches flew off and the families began the long bus ride back to main post.
Horvath felt like he was given an all-access pass to his son's military life and was very appreciative to Dalcourt and the rest of the Soldiers.
"I really didn't expect this (treatment). It was almost a red carpet treatment with a little dust on it," he said with a laugh.
Heather said that as long as she's been in the Army, her family has never been able to see what their dad does in such detail.
"This is the first time I've been to anything like this. I just feel like they put a lot of effort into it," she said.
Although she loved watching her husband fly, Heather quickly recognized the ground troopers.
"Obviously (the pilots) couldn't do it without the crew on the ground, and I've always said that. All the crew chiefs and everybody - I really appreciate what they do because they take care of my husband," said Heather.
Dalcourt wanted the families to walk away with a better idea of what their loved ones do. He stressed that education can be fun, enlightening and create a tighter bond within the family, he said.
"I learned growing up that there are three burdens of leadership: teaching, visibility and communication," said Dalcourt. "And as a commander, that burden to teach transcends the Soldiers that you own; it extends out to family members and loved ones. You can educate them in an effort to have a better family."
Still, education aside, there were some other benefits to inviting the families out to the range.
"I love to see the smiles, I love to see the kids fired up, (and) I love to see the spouses relating to what their spouses do military-wise," said Dalcourt.