By Staff Sgt. Mike Alberts, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public AffairsMay 21, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - Though less visible than the helicopters and air crew they support, ground support operations in an aviation brigade are no less important.
The Soldiers of Headquarters and Support Company (HSC), 209th Aviation Support Battalion (ASB), Task Force Lobos, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), keep aviation moving at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, near Tikrit, Iraq.
As one of the larger companies in TF Lobos, the "Terminators" are responsible for moving, and tracking equipment and personnel, maintaining the vehicles that keep helicopters armed and fueled, and ensuring Soldiers are healthy and fed, all critical missions to sustain the brigade's combat power.
According to Capt. Matthew Rivera, commander, HSC, 209th ASB, TF Lobos, his company combines traditional battalion-level command and control operations with brigade-level logistical, ground maintenance, medical and food service support operations. And the Terminators have been doing it successfully ever since the 25th CAB arrived in theater back in August 2009.
"To date, we have processed well over 12,000 personnel actions and maintained a geographically dispersed communications network through our command and control operations," explained Capt. Rivera. "In addition, our support operations section manages logistical support for all of Task Force Wings operations across United States Division-North. We have [also conduct] air movement requests in support of battlefield circulation and logistical resupply missions."
Chief Warrant Officer Three Marlon Mejia, is Capt. Rivera's senior maintenance technician, and also serves as the senior ground maintenance technician for the 25th CAB. For Chief Mejia, the company's success is due in large part to the dedication of its Soldiers.
"Our ground maintenance is exceptional, especially considering the variety of assets we are responsible for," said Mejia.
The Soldiers of HSC, 209th maintain the Quick Reaction Force and all battalion transportation vehicles to include all up-armored High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles, numerous Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, and an array of cranes and other military trucks. Ground maintenance also encompasses the welding, armament, radio, and night vision goggle shops, in addition to a team of generator mechanics.
"[The Terminators are a] group of Soldiers doing a fantastic job, and it's because of the experience and leadership we have at the [noncommissioned officer level (NCO)] level," he continued.
Two of Mejia's maintenance team NCOs are Staff Sgt. Jessy Abrena, wheeled vehicle mechanic and senior maintenance supervisor, and Sgt. Richard Peterson, small-arms repairer, squad leader and shops section sergeant, for HSC, 209th ASB. Both NCOs are on their third deployment to Iraq, and both complimented the quality of their young Soldiers.
"We're successful because we have very talented and bright young Soldiers," said Peterson. "They can figure things out when the manuals are outdated or require solutions with tools we don't have. Together, we do a great job of figuring things out and I would definitely put these Soldiers up against any that I have worked with in my career."
"The Soldiers I am responsible for have been doing a very good job especially considering 75 percent are practically brand new to the Army," added Abrena. "We were very deliberate about training them when we first got here and now I can say [that] all of them are totally proficient in their jobs."
According to Mejia, HSC has maintained a 98 percent operational readiness rate for all battalion vehicles throughout the deployment. However, HSC's ground maintenance success tells just part of the company's story.
The unit also facilitates meal service for about 11,000 Soldiers every day at COB Speicher's South Dining Facility and an additional 300 meals daily at the "Lobos Roadhouse," a satellite feeding location for Soldiers that work unconventional and evening shifts.
"Before we deployed we did not know that the food service operations were going to be as huge as they are," said Staff Sgt. James Cleveland, senior food service operations NCO, HSC, 209th ASB. "As a small group, we had to come together to be successful, and we have bonded like a family to make the mission happen."
The Terminators also have provided medical treatment to more than 10,000 patients at the Aviation Combined Aid Station (ACAS) and have certified more than 800 combat lifesavers across the 25th CAB.
"Making sure Soldiers accomplish whatever goals they set for themselves is important to me," said 1st Lt. Puja Ghosh, medical platoon leader, HSC, 209th ASB. Whether it's a [physical training], educational or other professional and personal goals, it doesn't matter. Not only does that concern for Soldiers fall under my responsibility as a platoon leader, but it's also something that is important to me personally," she said. "I want my Soldiers to look back on this deployment and see it as the year [they] spent getting something accomplished. I think they'll be able to say that."
Rivera takes pride in HSC's diverse mission set, and he too attributes credit for his company's success to the dedication of his leaders, not only to the mission but also to the well-being of the Soldiers for whom they're responsible.
"What is truly unique and sometimes gets overlooked is that HSC maintains all of the mission-essential rolling stock for the battalion which services the entire 25th CAB. In that sense, we definitely keep the brigade moving."