By Staff Sgt. Todd L. Pouliot, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade PAO NCOICOctober 17, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- How is piloting a helicopter at high altitudes in places such as the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan different from flying one around Fort Drum?
More than 100 aviators from 10th Combat Aviation Brigade have been cycling through High Altitude Mountainous Environment Training at Fort Carson, Colo., since mid-September. Each aviator spends about one week flying over the Rocky Mountains.
"This is some of the best training we go through," said Col. David J. Francis, 10th CAB commander. "The training we do here is critical to operations we conduct. At altitudes over 12,000 feet, we put our aircraft to the test. Only at Fort Carson can we replicate the environments we will be flying (in Afghanistan)."
The training requires the unit's instructor pilots to mentor less experienced pilots as they execute various maneuvers such as landing and taking off at high altitude.
"Being able to operate in high altitude is critical," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Sean E. Wojasinski, an AH-64 Apache helicopter instructor pilot with 1st Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Tigershark. "The training provided here allows aircrews to operate effectively and safely in the arduous environment of Afghanistan."
According to the brigade commander, who also took advantage of the training, HAMET builds confidence in the pilots and saves lives.
"It is absolutely critical that our pilots learn and apply the skills that they learn here," Francis said. "This is vital training that absolutely saves lives."
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mark Leach, an OH-58 Kiowa instructor pilot with C Troop, 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Six Shooters, explained the difference between flying at low and high altitudes.
"The aircraft is more efficient at low elevation," Leach said. "Here it's less efficient. Altitude affects air speed and power."
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian D. Gilmour, an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter pilot with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Six Shooters, agreed, adding that there's a difference in aircraft performance.
"The engines don't (perform) as they do at normal elevation," he said. "The air is thinner and the rotor blades don't bite the air. The engines can't cool themselves, causing performance to be not as efficient. We have to be more careful, steady and slower."
The unit will conduct another iteration of HAMET in January for those who were unable to attend the current training, which will conclude around the end of October.
"If you can fly here, you can fly anywhere," said Leach.