By Sgt. Matthew Magreta, Public Affairs Representative, Corpus Christi Army Depot

CORPUS CHRISTI ARMY DEPOT, Texas - Eighteen Utah National Guard members from D Company, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion, prepare for an upcoming deployment this month with the kind of helicopter maintenance practice that only the Corpus Christi Army Depot could provide.

Visiting for their annual two-week training, the tight-knit group is spending their November working alongside seasoned depot-level aircraft mechanics and engineers that serve as part of the US Army Civilian Corps at CCAD.

"Our new Soldiers need to get their hands dirty and expand their knowledge of aircraft maintenance before our deployment," said Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Martinez, a component repair supervisor with the unit. "We don't get these kinds of opportunities back home."

Members of the 2-211th GSAB hold field exercises and weekend drill, but nothing as detailed as what is offered at CCAD.

The continuous maintenance of aircraft components is a great training tool for our team, said Chief Warrant Officer Jon Creager.

"By allowing our Soldiers to work on all the parts, to see how they are assembled and operate, they will be more confident overseas," Creager said. "We want to ensure less stress 'in-country' so they can tackle any problem."

A majority of the 2-211th GSAB are junior enlisted with limited experience in aircraft maintenance.

As Guardsmen, most Soldiers have few opportunities working in their specific Military Occupational Specialty. This is especially true for aircraft repairers, electricians and mechanics whose fields of expertise are very specific.

"The opportunity to replace broken parts, use new tools and utilize new techniques rarely happens on drill weekend," said Spc. Sean Dransfield, who specializes in sheet metal. "This work is very beneficial and way more advanced."

While at CCAD most troops concentrate on engine assembly, composites, rotor blades, structural and skid repair on the UH-60 Black Hawk, AH-64 Apache, and CH-47 Chinook. Wiring, soldering and installing also serves a good refresher for the aircraft electricians and avionic mechanics in the unit.

"Last week they replaced a 308-mainframe, which supports a majority of the structure, and work on hydraulics," said depot lead mechanic Joseph Gonzales. "CCAD personnel can help them troubleshoot in the field if they can pinpoint the problems here."

Joining Guard units from five other states, the 2-211th GSAB plans to mobilize at Fort Hood, Texas before stationing overseas with the 35th Infantry Division in support of Operation Spartan Shield. Their unit will be on the front lines in the continued global effort to build the Army's forward presence, assure US allies and deter aggressors.

According to Martinez, most members of the unit have never deployed so any additional training before mobilization is crucial. For some, CCAD is their last chance to train with stateside aircraft experts.

"CCAD personnel are very knowledgeable and are great teachers in their profession," said Spec. Boyd Haskell, whose MOS is avionics. "Some have decades of experience and know all the tricks of the trade."

Senior leaders have praised CCAD for the industrial resources it provides for the troops who say they enjoy their time at CCAD, commenting on the first-rate facilities. The continuous aircraft maintenance opportunities it provides Soldiers on a day-to-day basis, however, remains the centerpiece of their time in South Texas.

The naval air base on which CCAD resides and surrounding community makes this required annual training a most productive and enjoyable visit, said Creager.

Nowhere in America is aviation readiness taken as seriously as CCAD, he said.

"I liked learning about the infrastructure and the computers on-board," said Haskell. "My first truly engaging annual training - I would come back to CCAD in a heartbeat."