By By Spc. Tim Oberle, 2nd CAB Public AffairsAugust 18, 2010
SEOUL AIR BASE, Republic of Korea - With a looming tropical storm on the horizon, the 2nd Battalion (Assault), 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade activated their severe weather protocol to prevent damage to the battalion's UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters Aug. 10 at Seoul Air Base.
Severe weather exercises are commonplace for the U.S. military in Korea due to the destructive nature of torrential rains that come with the yearly monsoon season. Only this time it wasn't an exercise; Tropical Storm Dianmu was bearing down on the Korean Peninsula and all precautions had to be taken.
"Generally, severe weather protocols are initiated when you are going to have winds stronger than 45 to 50 knots," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bennie N. Branham, 2-2nd Avn. production control officer. "We are not worried about flooding as much as we are worried about the hail storms and strong winds that often accompany it. Due to the possibility of harm to the aircrafts, we must bring the aircrafts into the hangar in order to mitigate any type of damage. The problem here is exasperated by the limited amount of space that we have for storage in the hangars."
Branham said that in order to prepare for severe weather, Soldiers with 2-2nd Avn. had to first fold the blades on each one of the Blackhawks and put them inside the hanger. He said, "The blades are folded so that all of the helicopters can fit."
He added that it can take time to store all aircraft properly.
"Generally it takes about 45 to 60 minutes to get the first aircraft in and then after that it takes about 30 minutes for each additional aircraft," he added.
"When we put the birds into the hangar this time the weather conditions were deplorable due to heavy rains, so it took a little longer than usual," said Branham. "However, we still finished in about eight hours. Thankfully, we are always prepared for weather conditions like this because we receive regular weather briefs well in advance of a storm's proximity to the airfield."
The advanced warning and prior training made storing the Blackhawks easier, he added.
"Our crews were extremely well prepared this time because we just conducted one of our exercises about two months ago and it was still fresh in their minds," he added. "They were able to get all of the helicopters in quickly and without any issues."
Although they are always ready, preparing the helicopters for severe weather in the Republic of Korea can be challenging.
"Korea is a different kind of animal from other duty stations because of the annual monsoon season and the limited amount of space we have for storage," Branham went on to say. "Most places don't have recurring weather like this and are equipped with adequate space for all of the aircrafts."
Once the threat of the storm subsided, the Wildcards removed the Blackhawks from the hangars and unfolded their blades - a lengthy process shortened by doubling up manpower.
"Following a severe weather exercise we have to tug the aircrafts out of the hangar and then unfold the blades much like we did when we put them away," he continued. "It usually takes about 30 to 40 minutes to get each helicopter out of the hangar. However, because we have two crews working, it averages out to around 20 minutes. It also usually takes less time to unfold them because you are dealing with better weather conditions. We have three companies and each one unfolds their own helicopters."
Branham said that although the storm did not affect their equipment, it would not have made a different because they were well prepared and had all of the helicopters put away in the hangar with plenty of time to spare.