News: 1st Air Cavalry conducts ‘Operation Gun Rescue’
Story by Sgt. Christopher Calvert
BELTON, Texas – Helicopter pilots entering the Army receive extensive training during their more than one year tenure in flight school, where they learn not only how to fly, but how to survive and evade capture if stranded in enemy territory.
To add upon this initial instruction, members of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade conducted water egress training near Belton Lake for rotary wing pilots and flight personnel, May 6 through May 8.
Dubbed “Operation Gun Rescue,” the three-day event was spearheaded by the 4th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, and trained more than 100 “Warriors” on how to properly escape water by mounting a hoist dropped by a UH-60 Black Hawk.
“This training simulates what a ‘fallen angel’ [pilot] should do after surviving a crash in the water in order to get rescued,” said Maj. Brian Hummel, operations officer for 4-227th and Tamaqua, Pa. native. “This is an exceptional exercise that will take soldiers out of their comfort zone to build confidence in their equipment and themselves.”
During the training, troops strengthened their rescue and swimming skills while also building capacity, Hummel said.
“We’ve been executing training day and night to learn new tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure our soldiers are fully prepared for the mission at hand,” Hummel said.
The amount of collaboration between units within the 1st ACB and other branches of service to make the exercise happen was impressive, Hummel said.
“We worked together across the battalions, as well as trained with members of the Coast Guard, who are the subject matter experts in flying over water,” Hummel explained. “They taught our Black Hawk pilots how to better hover over water, as well as several other crucial skills which are vital when performing these types of rescue missions.”
For newer pilots without a combat deployment under their belt, the training offered unique insight into some of the hazards they may face.
“This is the first time I, and most pilots, have actually conducted this training,” said 1st Lt. Kenny Friede, an AH-64D attack pilot with Company C, 4-227th and Edina, Minn. native. “We’ve performed overwater training before on the simulator, but it doesn’t compare to the actual thing.”
As the training came to a close, Friede admitted that although he was nervous about being dunked in the water after prior experiences, the training helped shake out his fears and build esprit de corps among the more than 100 1st ACB who completed the exercise.
“The confidence and familiarity this training builds is amazing,” said Friede. “It was also a lot of fun, as you really got blasted by the rotor splash and had to learn to turn your back to the wind and swim. Everyone felt good when they were done. Being confident over the water in the first place is so important, and this helped get the job done.”