By Bob McElroySeptember 16, 2013
FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- Like many active and reserve component Army units A Company 3rd Battalion 238th Aviation, Delaware Army National Guard, has its share of turnover as Soldiers come and go from the unit. Add to that the company's coming deployment and quality training becomes essential for Soldiers new and old.
The company, a UH-60 Blackhawk unit, deployed to Fort A.P. Hill in early September to hone the flying and fighting skills it needs to perform its mission at home and overseas.
Led by company commander Capt. Tom Emerson and 1st Sgt. Bryan Clarke, the Soldiers trained on each facet of their mission--flying, shooting, ammunition and fuel resupply and control of aircraft in flight day and night.
For many of the Soldiers, this was their first trip to A.P. Hill, for others it was their third or fourth.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Elwood Gilger, the company's Standardization Flight Instructor said that many of crew chiefs and gunners are new and have never fired a machine gun from a helicopter or taken commands over the aircraft's intercom.
"It's difficult for new crews, but this is a great spot to train," Gilger said. "We can push the envelope to ensure the crew coordination piece works."
Gilger said that the newer Soldiers would get two or three runs in the Blackhawk to fire their machine gun during the day and at night. They must complete all tasks to be fully-qualified.
The unit leadership emphasized safety throughout. Before training began safety officers briefed each of the gunners and crew chiefs on range safety, heat injuries and proper hydration.
Once in the air a master gunner supervised the shooter to ensure rounds hit the targets, Clarke said. Gunners were also required to reload their ammunition during flight and be ready to shoot again.
Emerson said that A.P. Hill provided his unit opportunities to train that it doesn't have at home station in Delaware. In addition to aerial gunnery, his Soldiers trained at the Convoy Live Fire range, the land navigation course, counter improvised explosive device range and conducted combat lifesaver training.
"It's a one-stop shop for us. The convoy lane is real nice and the aerial gunnery training was nice--not only could we shoot but it provided us the opportunity to set up our FAARP (Forward Area Arming and Refueling Point) and exercise that," he said.
Emerson said he, his leaders and his Soldiers are pleased with their training at A.P. Hill.
"All the Soldiers are motivated and glad to be here and training," he said. "We've been able to meet our challenges."