By First Lt. Allan Newman, Contributing WriterSeptember 8, 2016
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The sound of Apaches filled the Fort Drum air as the final 10 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters arrived Aug. 18 from the Utah Army National Guard to the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Drum, as part of the Army's Aviation Restructure Initiative.
The Army's Aviation Restructure Initiative, or ARI, was created in December 2013 as way to rebalance the Army's force structure into a smaller, more capable and sustainable aviation force.
ARI's transformation began with the reduction of the Kiowa Warrior aircraft, and it is still ongoing with continuous doctrine updates, training requirements and unit transfers and equipment fielding.
Selected to take charge of the Apache transfer was Capt. Joseph Lanham, commander of B Troop, 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment.
"Interfacing with the National Guard for the Apache helicopters has definitely been exciting for not just myself, but also my troops," Lanham said. "In a way, it's like we're making history because it wasn't too long ago the 6-6 Calvary was conducting its final Kiowa Warrior flight over Fort Drum, and now here we are adding Apache Longbow helicopters to the unit."
It took Lanham and two other 6-6 Cavalry pilots a little over two weeks to receive and thoroughly inspect the helicopters before officially accepting them on behalf of the brigade. Once he and his crew were done with the inspection process, they flew all 10 Apaches from the South Valley Regional Airport in Utah to Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield using additional support from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, out of Fort Stewart, Ga., and the Utah National Guard.
In addition to receiving the Apache helicopters, the "Six Shooters" also welcomed the arrival of the Shadow Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS, in early July and August.
The fielding of this equipment is also part of the restructure that allows for the Army to keep every Shadow aloft and transferred over to its aviation brigades.
Nonetheless, despite the many changes and additions the 6-6 Cavalry Regiment has experienced, Lt. Col. Mathieu Petraitis, 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment commander, said the cavalry's mission hasn't changed.
"For the air cavalry, it's the same mission with a different horse," Petraitis said. "We'll have to adjust as appropriate."
"If anything," he added, "ARI significantly contributes to our current and future readiness; it brings new capabilities to the reconnaissance and security aspects of the scout mission with a more formalized operationalized relationship between the Apaches and the Shadows."