FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Fort Riley aviators and ground troops joined forces this week to train on air assault operations.

The 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment used four Chinook helicopters for the training Aug. 10, in order to prepare Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

During the training, the helicopters transported several loads of infantrymen to an objective in Fort Riley’s training area.

This is one of several mock air assaults the aviation brigade has conducted with its infantry counterparts recently, as the latter will likely conduct them on a regular basis in Afghanistan.

“This training opportunity allows the Soldiers of both units to practice these missions in a controlled and safe environment, better preparing themselves for combat,” said Lt. Col. Brian Hughes, the aviation battalion commander.

In the mountainous context of Afghanistan, the Army’s Chinook helicopters are often its only aircraft capable of getting troops to their destinations, said Hughes.

“The aircraft’s capability of carrying large number of personnel and tons of cargo make them a priceless asset to the ground commander,” said Hughes.

Air assaults like this are one of the most important, and dangerous, operations the ground Soldiers will conduct on their deployment, he said. Accordingly, several weeks of preparation preceded the actual training.

“The most dangerous phase of any air assault operation is the landing plan,” he said. “The planning for this phase is critical, as both the ground and aviation forces must thoroughly plan on how to suppress or destroy enemy elements around the landing zone in order to mitigate risk.”

“1-28 was very involved in the planning process, and as a result, the battalion level air assault went off without a hitch,” he said.

Capt. Andrew Bartlett, pilot and commander of the battalion’s B Company, doubled as pilot and air mission commander during the mission.

While the training was geared toward preparing the infantry battalion for combat, it also served to train his company’s crews, he said.

“This was a chance for us to work on the skills we need in order to work together as a team,” he said. “There is a lot of communication that goes on between the aircraft.”

“This is our first collective event since being back from Iraq,” said Bartlett. “It was good training to establish where we are, and what to work on in the next couple months.”

The battalion is scheduled to continue similar training with its infantry counterparts through the summer. In addition, one of the battalion’s Black Hawk helicopter companies is scheduled to train the ground troops on medical evacuation next week.