Iron Eagle Soldiers with 1st Armored Division, Combat Aviation Brigade completed Deck Landing Qualification training with the help of the United States Navy, July 18, 2020. The Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 501st Regiment, Charlie Company MEDEVAC were able to land on the USS Iwo Jima on the Atlantic Ocean, qualifying them to provide support and relief in the event of natural disasters.
The training allows both pilots and crew chiefs to learn and familiarize themselves with the knowledge and skills it takes to safely land on a surface that is altered by the flow of the ocean waters. United States Army HH-60M Helicopter pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Benjamin Ham, who completed the training, understands that the training prepares him for the unknown.
“Landing on a platform that is constantly moving in all directions with little to no room for error while flying over the ocean with little to no visual references can be stressful,” Ham said.
While the stress can be felt amongst all members of the flight crew, the responsibility of each crew member varies. Spc. Sage Davis, a Crew Chief who completed the training, reveals he was responsible for many different aspects of the deck landing.
Davis explained that the event is three days of training that involves a deck walk, landing in simulated ship landing spots, and a day of landing on a real ship for a multi spot or single spot qualification.
“My role as the Crew Chief was to ensure the pilots were clearing all obstacles while coming over the deck during landing and takeoff as well as ensuring safety of the crew and Navy personnel coming to and from the rotor disks of the aircraft while on deck, Davis said.
The training did not start aboard the USS Iwo Jima, though. Prior to the Soldiers earning the Deck Landing Qualification, they engaged in Shallow Water Egress Training. This training, conducted in a pool, trains Aviators to react in a situation where they are submerged underwater.
“SWET training allowed me to be comfortable with my equipment and my ability to use it if a situation arose for it, and it definitely removed the anxiety of being over the water as far as we were,” Davis said.
Despite the challenges, Ham also understands the importance of the training, and how it prepares Soldiers to survive in demanding conditions.
“No one ever wants to be in a situation where they have to use their underwater egress training but going through DUNKER and SWET training gives you that peace of mind knowing that you will be ok should something happen,” Ham said.
Not only do the Iron Eagle Soldiers understand the importance of physical, hands on training, they also recognize the importance of team work. Successfully landing an aircraft on a ship’s deck requires the skills and knowledge of each crew member aboard the aircraft, but it also involves the hard work of the members of the United States Navy aboard the ship.
“I’ve worked with the Navy before but never as an aviator,” Ham said. “They are very professional. They have their own set of hand and arm signals for aircraft, which took some time to memorize. It’s pretty awesome to watch their crews work.”
The training was rewarding and educational for both pilots and crew chiefs alike. It offered the opportunity to not only complete a challenging and vital event, but allowed Soldiers to see how another branch of the United States Military functions.
“Overall, it was an amazing experience, not very many people are given the opportunity to work with the Navy and fewer in the way we did,” Davis said. “It is definitely one of those once in a life time events and a highlight of my time in the Army.”
The training also gave Iron Eagle Soldiers confidence in themselves as Aviators, their mission, and in their team as a whole.
“I love the MEDEVAC mission. Out of everything I have done in my 15 years in the Army it is the most rewarding,” Ham said. “The opportunity to attend this training is something that not many people get to do as an aviator so it was an awesome experience. Obviously, I hope I never have to use the training but should the need arise I am confident that the mission would be executed flawlessly.”