ARABIAN GULF - As two HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters lift off from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, they fly beyond the limits of Kuwait City and out to sea where they meet up with the USNS Choctaw County, T-EPF-2. As the pilots spot the ship's wake trail in the gulf, they follow it as they carefully await instructions for a safe landing on the deck.
HH-60M medevac helicopter pilots from Company B, 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Wraith and Company C, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Rough Riders, both belonging to the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade, conducted deck landing qualifications with the U.S. Merchant Mariners in the Arabian Gulf, Sept. 5, 2017.
"We have been given a great opportunity to work with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Merchant Marine services in order to perform these deck landing qualifications," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Aaron Williams. "It promotes joint operations between different branches and also provides us with training outside of our normal operations."
The DLQs involved five consecutive landings within the lines on the deck of the Choctaw County during the day and five during the evening. The pilots must negotiate the deck landing onto a ship moving at twelve knots with a surface area barely larger than the aircraft itself.
"The capability allows us to be able to get medical supplies or casualties to and from each other to meet the needs of a given mission," said Spc. Alix Ross, a flight medic with Task Force Rough Rider. "It's a great experience."
For Williams, one of the pilots, the experience was sentimental as well.
"The training held a special meaning for me," said Williams, since father belongs to the Choctaw Nation out of Durant, Oklahoma.
The crew of the Choctaw County gave some of the helicopter crew members a brief tour of the ship after they safely landed on the vessel.
"I hope to get a chance to do it again sometime," said Williams.
The 29th CAB, an Army National Guard brigade, provides aviation assets, partnership training, operational and logistical support to Operation Spartan Shield in Kuwait while simultaneously supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.