FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. – Approximately 145 aviation maintenance Soldiers from the Iowa, Virginia and West Virginia National Guard honed their skills repairing helicopters at Muir Army Airfield June 1-15.
While Soldiers with the 628th Aviation Support Battalion, 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard, remain on leave following their recent overseas deployment, these Soldiers from out of state completed nearly 100 work orders for the Pennsylvania National Guard.
"We were able to come in and integrate into the maintenance operations here to help the airfield and EAATS (Eastern Army Aviation Training Site) to provide maintenance support," said Maj. Aaron Rosheim, commander of B Co., 248th Aviation Support Battalion, 29th Combat Aviation Brigade, 29th Infantry Division, Iowa Army National Guard. "So here we're benefitting Pennsylvania Army National Guard aircraft, Eastern Army Aviation Training Site aircraft, and therefore helping the National Guard Bureau."
Rosheim's unit, like many in the National Guard, is split among several states. The headquarters and largest detachment is based in Iowa with approximately 150 Soldiers, while detachments of approximately 35 are located in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.
To train as a unit at annual training, unit leadership needed a site in the eastern U.S. with plenty of helicopters and barracks. Fort Indiantown Gap, the busiest National Guard training site in the nation, and Muir Army Airfield, one of the Army's busiest heliports, checked all the boxes.
"It's been a really great experience. The Pennsylvania National Guard has bent over backward to support us," said Rosheim.
Spc. Caleb Cook, a UH-60 Black Hawk mechanic with B Co., 248th Aviation Support Battalion, just graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in mechanical engineering and a computer science minor. He said his experience as a helicopter mechanic is a great additional skill set because it gives him the perspective of mechanic and engineer as he starts his civilian career.
"Engineering school is very theoretical, so it's nice to be able to see how this specific aircraft is engineered so I get more application of my theoretical understanding," said Cook.
The unit validated all its deployment operations, both aircraft maintenance and downed aircraft recovery capabilities, and moved all its unit equipment to Pennsylvania, set it up and used it for all operations.
"The goal here is to build a perpetual relationship that our unit can come back at least once every five years to not only provide maintenance support for the Pennsylvania National Guard but for us to get quality training for our Soldiers," said Rosheim.