By Sgt. Duncan BrennanJanuary 7, 2014
2013 was a year of change for the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.
In the first quarter of the year, the Wings of Destiny brigade began winding down its fifth deployment to Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.
The redeployment began as 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st CAB, 101st Abn. Div., redeployed its Soldiers and OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters in February as the majority of the Kiowa's mission ended across much of Regional Command-East. The movement of the OH-58Ds was part of a massive undertaking by the brigade's transportation managers who coordinated with Air Force and civilian contractors to fly helicopters from across the brigade to Fort Campbell.
In March, the 96th Aviation Support Battalion, 101st CAB, 101st Abn. Div., began redeploying.
The "Troubleshooters" provided logistical support, aircraft maintenance, and fuel and ammunition distribution for the Wings of Destiny brigade across RC-East. The 96th ASB were at every forward operating base ensuring that the 101st CAB could ensure the safety of troops on the ground, the wounded could be flown to medical care and Soldiers had food to eat and water to drink.
The "Troubleshooters" were also a major contributor to the Wings of Destiny's achievement of no aircraft crashing due to human error in maintenance.
Charlie Company, 6th Battalion, 101st CAB, "Shadow Dustoff", conducted its transfer of authority with C Co., 3rd Bn., 10th CAB at Bagram Airfield, April 3. This was the first transfer of authority for the Wings of Destiny conducted under the 101st Abn. Div. command of RC-East. "Shadow Dustoff" provided aeromedical evacuation for multiple FOBs across RC-East including Jalalabad Airfield, FOB Shank, Bagram Airfield and more.
In May, the Wings of Destiny completed redeploying to Fort Campbell. Flights carrying Soldiers home arrived almost daily. Families were reunited with loved ones who had deployed the previous summer; some of those Soldiers completed multiple deployments with the 101st CAB. The final flight of redeploying Wings of Destiny Soldiers arrived May 22.
The brigade held an uncasing ceremony on June 4 to symbolize the official end of the deployment. During the ceremony the Wings of Destiny was lauded for accomplishing a goal of zero lives lost as a result of preventable accidents, human error, shoot-downs and air engagements resulting in civilian casualties set by Col. Paul Bontrager, former commander, 101st CAB.
"It was monumental that we were able to achieve that level of success," said Chief Warrant Officer Robert Purdy, former command chief warrant officer, 101st CAB. "We had no civilian casualties due to air engagements, no loss of live due to a preventable aircraft accident and we had no loss of life based on human error."
After returning from block leave, the Destiny Brigade turned its sights toward the next rendezvous. Change-of-command and change-of-responsibility ceremonies were held across the brigade culminating with the brigade change of command July 25.
In August, 5th and 6th Battalions, 101st CAB began training to assume wildfire and severe-weather response missions. Air crews prepared for over-water, evacuation and firefighting operations. The brunt of this mission was borne by the pilots and crews of B Co., 6-101st CAB, "Pachyderms." The crews of B Co. operate the CH-47 Chinook helicopter, which is suited to cargo and personnel movement. Being able to lift heavy cargo as well as people allows the "Pachyderms" to lift more water to douse hot spots in forest fires, deliver supplies to remote teams and evacuate people that are in danger. This was a difficult mission to take over, but for the "Pachyderms", it was a great way to give back to the American people.
"It's one thing to help out your brothers and sisters on the ground," said Sgt. Justin Rose, CH-47 flight engineer, B Co., 6-101st CAB. "It's a little different when you've got innocent people out there just weathering the storm. It's a great feeling to be able to help here at home ... I hope they never need us, but we're here if they do."
Training for a different kind of rendezvous with destiny, 1st Battalion, 101st CAB, "Expect No Mercy," conducted AH-64D Apache helicopter aerial gunnery in September and October. Maintaining proficiency in close air support is critical to being a combat multiplier when ground forces are in contact with enemy.
The air scouts of 2nd Sqdn., 17th Cav. Rgt. also kept their engagement skills sharp conducting several small-arms ranges as well as aerial gunnery. During aerial gunnery, pilots and ground personnel used the RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aerial system to assist in grading the air crews. This was a natural progression from the role the shadow crews performed in Afghanistan when the 101st CAB deployed as the Army's first full-spectrum combat aviation brigade.
At Thanksgiving the 101st CAB joined together for Operation Wild Turkey. This was a charity event driven by the Soldiers of the brigade to ensure that no member of the Wings of Destiny went without a turkey and all the trimmings for Thanksgiving dinner.
The Pilots of "Expect No Mercy" finished out the year with aerial gunnery.