By Spc. Tracy R. WeedenJuly 13, 2010
The AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Blackhawk pilots and crew chiefs of Task Force Eagle Assault are flying day and night in support of U.S. and coalition forces in Southern Afghanistan.
The Blackhawk pilots and crew chiefs of A Company, TF Eagle Assault, fly into hostile and non-hostile territories in order to deliver food, water, ammunition and supplies to aid ground forces in the fight against the insurgency. They also insert necessary ground forces to protect and secure areas.
A major responsibility of TF Eagle Assault is to support the ground forces through emergency resupplies, troop insertions and aerial security, said Lt. Col. John Kline, TF Eagle Assault commander and Blackhawk pilot.
Apaches escort the Blackhawks into hostile or dangerous territory to protect them from potential threats, secure a landing zone and assist ground forces with additional protection.
"We escort the utility aircraft and make sure the landing zone is secure," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Tomas Castro, C Company, TF Eagle Assault, Apache pilot. "Once they are on the ground, we provide overwatch to make sure that there is no enemy activity."
TF Eagle Assault banded together to deliver a variety of food to raise morale for a group of Navy SEALs who were living off of packaged Meals Ready to Eat and water at a combat outpost in Afghanistan during the daylight hours of May 11.
"We feel very fortunate to be where we are with the amenities that have been afforded to us here," said Maj. Charles Rambo, TF Eagle Assault operations officer. "We took the opportunity to go beyond our combat support and reach out to these guys who aren't living as well as we are."
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, along with E Company Soldiers assisted in gathering an assortment of food and beverages.
They collected boxes of snacks, sodas, ice cream, energy drinks, Gatorade and foods such as steak and potatoes, said Spc. Dusty Lyles, HHC, TF Eagle Assault flight operations specialist,
Two Blackhawks were filled with food and beverages to deliver to the SEALs.
"We waved them over to the aircraft once we landed," said Spc. Jacob Knapp, A Co., TF Eagle Assault senior crew chief.
The SEALs didn't know what to expect, they were only notified of the landing.
Once the doors were opened, the SEALs threw their fists into the air with excitement and screamed 'yes,' said Kline, who was flying this mission.
This was the first morale fight of their tour, and the ground forces were not expecting it at all.
They worked very quickly to download their goodies from the aircraft, said Knapp.
After the completion of their mission, the commander of TF Eagle Assault received an e-mail from those SEALs thanking them for their time, effort and the risk they took to deliver the food. "It was way beyond anything I would have expected."
Many SEALs in their area of operations wear the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) patch.
"Because we have developed such a good relationship with them through our support, when they do operations with us, they want to wear our patch," said Rambo.
During another mission, TF Eagle Assault supplied a different group of ground forces in Afghanistan with a much needed resupply known as "speedballs," which include bags of munitions, food and water.
The ground forces needed a combat resupply because they were in five or six different engagements that day, so they were pretty low on supplies, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Robert Plotts, Blackhawk pilot, A Co., TF Eagle Assault. The 'speedballs' mainly consisted of munitions, but did contain a couple of cases of MREs and water."
These ground forces were under heavy attack all day by rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire when TF Eagle Assault assumed the dangerous mission to help them.
"They know they can count on us when they need something," said Rambo.
This mission was essential to the ground forces because without the resupply from TF Eagle Assault, they would not have been able to fight the enemy as effectively.
"In addition to 'speedballs,' we also put extra Soldiers on the aircraft to unload them at the LZ (landing zone)," said Rambo. "So that we didn't endanger them by having them compromise their fighting position."
The Apaches played a key role in this mission because it was such a dangerous area.
The Apache pilots communicated with the ground forces who told them where they believed the enemies position to be, said Castro. They secured those areas and provided over watch.
The pilots of TF Eagle Assault are proud to answer the call of duty when their brothers in arms need them, no matter what the conditions are.
"There's no better job on the planet," said Plotts. "We live to do air assaults. Give us a mission, whether it's four hours or four days out, and we'll get a plan to get it done."
No matter what the mission is, they know they are directly contributing assistance. Without the air support from TF Eagle Assault, it would be difficult to get these isolated ground forces the ammo they need to fuel to fight.