By briana mcfarlandAugust 28, 2018
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait -- U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment (Assault) Commander Lt. Col. Timothy Cleighton and Command Sgt. Major Cynthia Carlino passed the torch to 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment (Assault) Commander Lt. Col. Todd Loughney and Sgt. Maj. Darrian Campbell during a transfer of authority ceremony Aug. 28, 2018 at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
This ceremony signified the successful completion of a nine-month deployment in the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve. The mission -- providing unified land operations through aerial support and enabling interoperability between Coalition forces -- came with many challenges.
"Our unit was split between five countries and was under operational control (OPCON) to two other 449th Combat Aviation Brigade battalions," said Cleighton. "It felt like four different deployments because each location was very different and it was difficult finding the balance of involvement in our organic personnel, not under our operational control, to prevent being too involved where our units felt friction."
Due to the complex command relationships supporting two operations, the 244 AHB relied heavily on over-communication and increasing efficiency within the organization.
"Our Soldiers were able to gain experience in ways that can only be built on a deployment," said Cleighton. "The exposure that was provided to our Soldiers will help in our organizational growth, and you can already see a definitive increase in our capabilities."
Between both operations, TF Voodoo conducted seven partnership and aviation exchange missions in the countries of Oman, Qatar and Jordan as well as multiple U.S. Army Central Command exercises, to include: Army Day, Nautical Horizon and Invincible Sentry, to name a few. They also completed five deck landing qualifications, which gave the unit the capability to launch an operation from shore to ship and provides their MEDEVAC aircraft a place to land safely in case of emergency. Overall, the missions resulted in the AHB flying 3000 hours and leaving a lot of thing to discuss with the incoming unit during the relief in place.
"The RIP is extremely important to ensure the mission does not fail," said Cleighton. "Our mission during the RIP was to show the incoming unit our procedures and to ensure continuity to our leadership and customers. It's in the military culture to make improvements along the way and to make the mission better than we received it."
Although the deployment came with many challenges, lessons, knowledge and experiences were gained that will be used in the future.
"A lesson we learned is it's always about the people," said Cleighton. "A previous commander would always say 'Take care of your people and they will take care of the mission.' The one investment that can't be replaced is the people, and taking care of Soldiers is also about taking care of their families, which made this deployment extremely successful."
The 244th AHB is an Army National Guard unit headquartered in Hammond, La. with the deployment task force comprised of personnel from four states. Their aviation assets include the UH-60 Black Hawk and HH-60 MEDEVAC helicopters, which were also used in 2003 and 2009 when the unit deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.