News: Up and Away – the 1-135th deploys
Story by Airman 1st Class Shelby Orozco
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Since Whiteman is officially an Air Force base, many people often forget it is home to multiple joint-force partners. One of these is the Army’s 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion.
This unit, which flies the Apache helicopter, maintains a high ops tempo, training constantly to support friendly forces on the ground in combat areas.
On Wednesday, March 27, more than 300 soldiers from the 1-135th departed for a deployment to Afghanistan to aid in Operation Enduring Freedom. The team will first travel to deployment training here in the United States, and then head overseas upon completing training.
The soldiers have been heavily preparing for this deployment, said Capt. Derek Forst, 1-135th ARB A Company commander.
“We just got done with a 30-day gunnery out in Boise, Idaho,” Forst said. “We conducted high- altitude mountain training, along with aerial gunnery. We qualified 23 crews.”
They will be working primarily in combat operations, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Greg Schulte, 1-135th ARB TACOPS officer.
“Our main mission is to support the ground force commander,” Schulte said. “That entails a lot, including convoy security, as well as security for other aviation assets. We will also act as a quick reaction force based upon base security. The mission is broad-set; we’re kind of a ‘be-all, do-all’ team. It really depends on what’s going on at the time and we will integrate the best that we can.”
As far as day-to-day operations go, the soldiers are up for anything.
“We could start our day escorting a convoy and then end up closing our day with a close-combat attack,” Forst said. “It can change that quickly; we could start one mission and end with a completely different one.”
Leading up to this deployment, the 1-135th has been working hand-in-hand with the 442nd Fighter Wing, said Forst.
“We work closely with the 442nd,” Forst said. “Last summer we did a lot of training together. They have been outstanding to work with, and we have learned a lot from each other.”
“With the war being joint now, or ‘purple,’ it’s a great asset to understand the terminology the different branches use,” Schulte said. “Being able to work with them before we arrive in Afghanistan makes things a lot easier.”
Even though so many soldiers will be deploying, normal operations on Whiteman will continue, said Forst.
“There will be a small rear detachment here doing day-to-day operations,” he said. “We still have a few people in different schools that will be filling positions while we are gone. There will also be aviators left behind, our brigade headquarters. They will be coming back here and flying, but the tempo is going to decrease a lot.”
This deployment will be the second deployment for both Forst and Schulte.
“The worry is always there,” Schulte said. “If anyone says they aren’t nervous they are probably lying or it hasn’t hit them yet. I think the training we have been able to accomplish over the past several months to prepare helps, but there’s always going to be a curveball, something thrown out there that wasn’t quite in the plans, and you have to react quickly.”
The impact of deployments is felt not only by the soldiers themselves, but by their loved ones back home, as well.
“During stressful situations, making the right decision at the right time can be hard,” Forst said. “I want to make sure our soldiers are always taken care of, over there and over here and with their families. That’s the main part for us. It’s a hard toll on the families – they’re used to seeing their mom or dad or husband or wife every day, and it’s stressful for them.”
As National Guardsmen, the soldiers of the 1-135th are able to leverage skills and abilities from their broad range of non-military experience.
“Because our guys have varied backgrounds, depending on their civilian jobs they bring a lot more to the table,” Schulte said. “We have a lot of different experience and a lot of different ways of looking at things, which makes us flexible in how we can use our people to accomplish the mission.”
Outside of the mission, the soldiers can use their skills for personal recreation.
“We can do a lot of things by ourselves,” Forst said. “We have a lot of contractors, plumbers and electricians with us, and we can use them to set up lights and Internet and buildings. We have a lot that we can bring to the table to be self-sustaining.”
The members of the 1-135th are very grateful for their place here at Whiteman.
“Whiteman is our home,” Forst said. “Team Whiteman has been really great to us. The Deployment Center has supported us with this entire deployment, with moving to Idaho for training and working with us to help scan our baggage and moving to our next location.
“The 509th Bomb Wing has been nothing but helpful. We use a lot of their offices and Whiteman has been an outstanding help and support through all of this.”
“Our mission can be diverse,” Schulte said. “Our viewpoints are a little bit different, and that is a huge asset to us.”