News: Air Cav Brigade takes on Hurricane Ike aftermath
Story by Staff Sgt. Nathan Hoskins
By Sgt. Nathan J. J. Hoskins
1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division
HOUSTON, Texas – When a natural disaster strikes the United States, it's the job of the fearless National Guard units to help bring back normalcy to those affected.
But when hurricanes of great magnitude hit, the U.S. government sometimes calls upon other units such as the 1st Air Cavalry "Warrior" Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.
And one unit from the Warriors in particular has had a history of providing relief to those in desperate need.
They're none other than the 2nd "Lobo" Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div.
The Lobos have not only provided relief to victims of hurricanes Rita and Katrina, but have also flow halfway around the world to the mountains of Pakistan to help those affected by a massive earthquake ... twice!
All of this while maintaining deployments in support of the war on terror.
It's easy to see that the Lobos are veterans of disaster relief and more.
When Hurricane Gustav threatened the coastline of Louisiana, 2-227th was immediately put on a 24-hour recall – ready to jump at a moments notice to help the battered shores, said Lt. Col. Ralph Litscher, commander of the Lobos.
As Hurricane Ike made its way towards the Gulf of Mexico, the state of Texas called upon the Lobos to fly a reconnaissance mission over the projected area of destruction, said Litscher, a native of Half Moon Bay, Calif.
They took officials over the coastline and the surrounding areas as well as different hospitals and assisted living centers to ensure that there were quick and easy routes of evacuation, he said. Now that Ike has passed, the recovery effort begins.
And so the Lobos are on call for whatever mission comes up, said Litscher.
"We keep a portion of the battalion ... on a 24-hour recall so we can launch aircraft as required in support of the [U.S. Northern Command] commander and his homeland security mission," he said.
Part of that mission is providing command and control Black Hawk helicopters for a sort of battlefield assessment. They'll go out and look at those areas most affected by the hurricane.
The Lobos have already flown Gen. Victor Renuart Jr., the NORTHCOM commanding general, and his staff over the disaster area; giving a bird's eye view of the destruction.
They've also flown government officials such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency across the hurricane devastated coast.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jerry Stafford, the standardization pilot for Company A, 2-227th, said that it "feels good" helping out in the relief efforts.
Stafford was one of the pilots who flew the general officers and staff over the coastal areas.
"Our bags are packed and ready for night or day missions. There isn't any mission we're not capable of doing," he said.
Along with keeping the relief effort moving with transportation and survey flights, the Lobos are also on call for search and rescue, medical evacuation and re-supply operations, said Col. Douglas Gabram, commander of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.
The Lobos have already provided re-supply of water and food using their CH-47F Chinook helicopters, he said.
The twin-rotor helos fly in and out of Ellington Field, Houston and the surrounding areas, jumping from mission to mission.
Keeping all of these missions in order is Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dan Wallace, the liaison officer for 1st ACB and active duty rotary wing to the Texas joint operations centers.
Wallace works at the Air Coordination Group at Camp Mabry, Texas, to ensure the flow of missions and requests are properly addressed and tasked to the Lobos.
"I'm working with all the government agencies to try to coordinate air operations over the post-strike area," said the Huntsville, Ala., native.
To give an idea of the combined effort to bring the disaster area back to its feet, here is a small list of agencies Wallace is coordinating with: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Aviation Agency, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and more.
Still, the Lobos get the job done.
What's more amazing is that although the 1st ACB is providing support to the relief efforts, the rest of the brigade is not just sitting around, said Gabram, a Cleveland, Ohio, native.
"We have a task force of 22 helicopters currently training at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.," he said.
And that's not all. The ACB also has an attack helicopter battalion working air/ground integration training with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav. Div., at Fort Hood, Texas, said Gabram.
While not deployed to help combat terror, 1st ACB and its subordinate units are constantly training so that they are ready on a moment's notice to answer the call of its country – war or weather.
And it doesn't matter if it's Pakistan or their home state of Texas; the Lobos are ready to help those affected by disaster and destruction.