By Capt. Mike GiaquintoJanuary 7, 2014
In March 2012 Soldiers of the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were returning home from a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
After settling back in, 2013 became about preparing the Soldiers of the 159th CAB for their next rendezvous with destiny.
Early in 2013, Soldiers of the 159th CAB spent about two weeks in the field conducting a mission readiness exercise, sharpening their craft and strengthening their teamwork skills in the process.
The MRX training included a myriad of exercises: convoy live-fire ranges, battle drills, Air Assault missions, convoy operations, radio communications, air-ground integration, downed aircraft recovery and reacting to contact. All of these exercises were designed to help Soldiers sharpen their skills, and build trust within the ranks.
Following the successful MRX training, Soldiers from Task Force Wings, an aviation task force from the 159th CAB, were deployed for six weeks to Fort Bliss, Texas, in support of Network Integration Exercise 13.2.
The NIE is a semi-annual event in which the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, conducts wide ranging field operations designed to examine the viability of new technological innovations. Task Force Wings teamed with the 2nd BCT, 1st Armored Division, in order to evaluate the air-to-ground performance of the SRW communication network, a new type of radio postured to eventually replace current SINCGARS architecture. Throughout NIE 13.2, the crews of the AH-64 Apache and UH-60M Black Hawk aircraft took part in specially tailored debriefs after performing various mission sets such as tactical reconnaissance, deliberate Air Assault and close combat attack.
During the fire season, from May 1 through Oct. 31, 159th CAB was called upon to provide a mission ready aviation support package to the National Interagency Firefighting Center that was capable of safely assisting the NIFC with wild land firefighting missions through bambi bucket, medical evacuation and casualty evacuation operations.
To be successful in this mission Soldiers with the 159th CAB were required to be trained and NIFC certified on personnel movement, bambi bucket, hoist and tactical operations. After extensive training, the brigade was able to provide deployable, trained and certified aircrews capable of conducting mission support to civil agencies during the 2013 fire season.
The next mission for 159th CAB was in support of Cadet Troop Leadership Training.
From May 28 to June 21, the 159th CAB hosted two cycles of cadets from United States Military Academy and Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadet Command. During the cycles the 159th CAB provided cadets with leadership experience and firsthand knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of a junior officer in the United States Army.
Following the departure of the cadets, 159th CAB hosted the inaugural Thunder 5k event June 29.
The event brought together Soldiers, Families and friends of 159th CAB. A 5k was paired with a kids' 1k for children 9 and under, as well as an open house to showcase some of the 159th CAB's assets to Family members and friends. Racers of all levels came out from the die-hard competitors to parents with strollers for a great time.
Throughout the year, battalions with the 159th CAB also made their rotations through the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La.
The battalions spent approximately two weeks at Fort Polk, La., to conduct aerial gunneries, keep current on skills and build on the battalions' cohesion.
After a year of hard training, the 159th CAB held the brigade ball at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. to bring all the Soldiers in the 159th CAB together one last time Nov. 2.
The ball was a celebration of all the hard work and the dedication the Soldiers of the 159th CAB put into their training in 2013. Soldiers and their Families enjoyed a night of ceremony, socializing and dancing. The ball built on the camaraderie and cohesion present among the Soldiers of the 159th CAB as they prepared to deploy towards the end of the year.
Even as the Soldiers of 159th CAB prepared to deploy, they remained devoted to the mission here at Fort Campbell providing support to the UFC Fight for the Troops held on the 159th CAB's heliport at Sabre Army Airfield, Nov. 5.
The 159th CAB cleared hangers, repositioning assets as well as equipment, in preparation for this event. The 159th CAB provided Soldiers to assist with set up and tear down for the event, and provided aviation assets to be filmed and strategically positioned on the airfield during the event.
The free UFC event was held to honor the sacrifice and success of 101st Airborne Soldiers.
Following the UFC event, the 159th CAB held a Casing of the Colors ceremony Nov. 22.
The Casing of the Colors Ceremony is an Army tradition in which the brigade's colors are packed to be sent to a new theater of operation. The 159th CAB cased its colors in preparation for its deployment to Afghanistan at the end of the year.
As 2013 comes to a close, the Soldiers of the 159th CAB say farewell to their Families, friends and Fort Campbell as they head to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.