The hills of the Yakima Training Area echoed with the sounds of .50 caliber and Hellfire weapons systems, as the pilots and gunners on the UH-60 Blackhawks and OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopters of the 4th Squadron, 6th Air Cavalry Regiment qualified and tested their skills during a week-long gunnery.

During the training and qualification gunnery, the pilots and gunners had the opportunity to test out their skills and practice for real world scenarios in the event they are deployed to a t combat zone.

"Today is going to be a combined arms live fire, that will have a four truck convoy and air cover. The convoy will move through the training lane engaging targets as the Scout Weapons team will also engage targets. The ground teams will call for a casualty evacuation from a Blackhawk and another Blackhawk will provide security overhead," said Chief Warrant Officer Mathew Huntsinger, OH-58D pilot. "There are a lot of moving parts. This is really the culmination event from a months worth of exercises both here at Yakima but also at Joint Base Lewis-McChord."

As a former infantryman turned aviator, Huntsinger wanted to place special emphasis on the importance of communication between the ground forces and the pilots.

"It's absolutely huge that we are able to train like this. Not only for the aviators but also for the guys on the ground," said Huntsinger. "It is invaluably training to work with the people you are going to support so that you have a relationship with them before you get overseas or downrange. It makes missions run a lot smoother."

Fortunately, Yakima offers the Air Cavalry unit an opportunity to run the exercise to its full extent.

"It is always great to be able to get out here and have an opportunity to have our door gunners get some trigger time. We commonly fly with weapons, but usually there is not much opportunity to shoot," said Capt. Drew Schroeder, 4-6 ACS UH-60 aviator. "It is also great to come to Yakima where there is lots of room and actual targets for us to shoot at. It's just a great place here."

For the crews who are new to this type of training, it will allow for them to gain valuable teamwork.

"For these crews, probably seventy percent of them, this is the first time doing an exercise like this," said Huntsinger. "These junior crews who haven't deployed, getting to work with other elements it's vital in the real world because teams work like this every day downrange."