By Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. Task Force Wings Public AffairsDecember 2, 2009
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, Iraq - One of the most emotionally driven events a Soldier can experience is the call to respond to a downed aircraft, especially during deployment in a combat zone.
The Soldiers of Troop D, 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Wings, based at FOB Warrior, Iraq, face that potential reality daily.
These troopers serve as the Lightning Horse Squadron's Downed Aircraft Recovery Team and are primarily responsible for recovering the unit's downed air assets.
"We are here to provide the squadron with the combat power it needs to complete its tactical mission," said Capt. Jason Noble, a test pilot and commander, Troop D, 2-6th Cav. Regt.
The troopers on the DART are from just about any relevant aviation MOS that will support an aircraft such as power-train mechanics, technical inspectors, armament, and aircraft crew chiefs. Functioning as a cohesive team, these Soldiers quickly bring downed aircraft home and get them back into the fight. Many on the team enjoy their work but are cognizant of its significance, having already responded to two real world downed aircraft missions.
"It's fun but stressful at the same time [so we work really hard not to miss anything]," stated Staff Sgt. Steven Weeks, a technical inspector for the team. "So it's good to train for DART."
Sgt. Kelly Cobb, an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter maintainer, agreed, marveling at how much he has learned since joining the Army.
"For me, doing my job everyday has been [great, because] I've learned something new. I came in the Army barely knowing how to change the tire on a car. Now I do everything from changing transmissions on helicopters to recovering downed aircraft," said Sgt. Cobb.
Even with the extensive training the team conducted in preparation for their mission, including two rotations to the National Training Center and four to Pohakuloa Training Area, on the big island of Hawaii, there was still plenty to learn. In addition to their area of responsibility, the troopers learned terms such as "fallen angel" and "lame duck," used to describe different scenarios of downed aircraft, according to Spc. Joseph Fearon Jr., also an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter maintainer.
Luckily, the team doesn't have to go at it alone.
"If we do a DART [mission], the 15th [Brigade Support Battalion] and the owning ground unit for whatever battle space that DART [mission] is in, will immediately [re-prioritize] their missions [making the DART their top priority]," said apt. Noble.
He also listed the 1st Squadron, 230th Air Cavalry Squadron, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, the Iraqi air force, and the State Department's aviation team, who provide additional logistical support as assisting units.
During their most recent activation, a drill, unbeknownst to the team, they quickly gathered their gear and necessary items for a mission. The team's goal is to be ready to respond to an event in no more than one hour. After demonstrating their efficiency, the team discovered it was a readiness drill. This particular drill was deemed successful with the proud troopers ready in 42 minutes, nine seconds.
"There's always room for improvement, but we have really experienced people here to back us up and teach us ... the people on their first deployment like me," said Pfc. Janine Clymo, a power train mechanic for the DART. "They make it really easy, and it runs a lot smoother when you have people to guide you in the right direction. This was probably the best practice DART we've had so far, and I anticipate them getting better."