FORT HOOD, Texas - In preparation for their upcoming deployment to Iraq, the Blues Platoon participated in essential training exercises designed to test their ability to provide security for downed aircraft Jan.15 on Fort Hood, Texas.

The term "Blues Platoon" is a throwback to the Vietnam era when infantry Soldiers were attached to an aviation unit; however, this platoon, from Company F, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, is a mix of infantry, engineer and artillery Soldiers.

Initially, the training mission was to capture a high-value individual, but it quickly turned into a "Fallen Angel" exercise to help assist a downed UH-60 Black Hawk, said 1st Lt. Michael Novello, a Co. F platoon leader from Rockville, Md.

"Before we took off, we received word that one of our [aircraft] had been shot down," Novello said. "We then had to do a quick change of mission and respond to the downed aircraft."

With such an abrupt mission change, planning was a critical factor, he said.

"We made a quick plan of how to set up security and extract the pilots from the crippled aircraft," said Novello. "We then went out and yelled the plans to our guys as they were loading the aircraft."

The first priority once Co. F landed was to provide security, said Novello, adding the other was ensuring the crash site was safe in order to prevent more Soldiers from being injured.

"Everyone in our platoon has been taught by the aviators how to shut the aircraft down and how to pull the pilots out using the correct levers on the seats," he said.

Spc. Jacob Wescott, a Co. F gunner of Strasburg, Colo. said the training was a success.

"I've been through the real thing in Iraq before and the training was almost (exactly) what I experienced there," Wescott said. "For a lot of the newer guys the training was very helpful."

"The medical aspect was very realistic -- dealing with wounded Soldiers and treating them. At the same time, knowing the Black Hawk is your only way in and out makes you take everything into consideration more."

Novello said although there are still things to work on, it was good to get out and go through the motions of reacting to a downed aircraft.

"We'd like to think no aircraft will ever go down, but it does happen," said Novello. "We are hoping to go through this training once more, but we are also hitting a lot of other scenarios."