By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)March 21, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- In a hangar at Butts Army Airfield, 11 Soldiers picked apart the 50,000-pound Chinook helicopter, March 13. Piece by piece, they inspected the engines, transmission, rotor blades and drive shafts, searching for signs of corrosion and cracks.
"Over time, the aircraft wears out," said Spc. Daniel Halweg, mechanic, Company D, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. "If the damaged components aren't caught, it wouldn't be good."
Halweg said every time a helicopter reaches 200 flight hours, it undergoes the intense inspection.
For the maintenance platoon Soldiers, the 200-hour phase met inspection requirements and served as training for younger, inexperienced troops.
"We've had the aircraft less than two months and we've already seen a substantial improvement in our Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Victor Alonso, maintenance floor supervisor, 2nd GSAB, 4th Avn., Reg., 4th CAB. "The Soldiers have a variety of experience and there are several tasks on a Chinook that require five or six personnel so everyone has to know their job."
Alonso said that while the time it takes to complete an inspection varies throughout the Army, he anticipated this inspection taking about a month to complete.
"We're a new unit with new Soldiers," he said. "We have to make sure we're safe. We're focused on safety and a fluid work schedule."
Maintenance crew members consulted digital manuals as they inspected the 10 main components and numerous subcomponents of the helicopter.
"Once upon a time we had these thick books and manuals," Alonso said. "For the old-school mechanics, we knew the books, but (today) the computer takes the Soldier through all of the steps."
Soldiers performing the inspection said they benefitted from learning the aircraft inside and out.
"This is a good refresher," said Halweg. "Before we started this, the last time I did any maintenance was six months ago. We're learning the new system and we're learning more about the unit."
Pfc. Sean Finegan said gaining an intimate knowledge of the aircraft has set him up for success outside of the military.
"These are transferable skills to civilian life," said Finegan, mechanic, 2nd GSAB.
He said that after he completes his time in the Army, he hopes to work as a mechanic in the aviation field.
"It's only day five of training and I'm getting better knowledge of my job and overall knowledge of aviation," he said. "I've learned a lot."