News: TF Gunslinger, engineers refresh AGI skills
Story by Sgt. Tyrone Marshall
MOSUL, Iraq – As a ground force convoy travels to its destination it receives enemy fire. This complex attack threatens the mission and aviation assets are called in for a Close Combat Attack.
An attack weapons team, consisting of two AH-64D Apache attack helicopters, responds, and through a series of radio calls between air and ground forces, quickly zeroes in on the enemy and effectively eliminates the threat. This coordinated action requires precise communication.
That effective communication is the cornerstone for successful air ground integration. It is critical to all commanders, both air and ground, and their units often train tirelessly to perfect it in order to effectively synchronize aviation operations into the ground scheme of maneuver.
The pilots of Company C, “Whiskey,” 2nd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Gunslinger, conducted air ground integration training with the engineers of Company E “Dawg,” 1st Bn., 64th Armor Regt., TF Rogue’s, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, June 6.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Aaron Clarke, an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter pilot with Company C, 2-159th Avn. Regt., TF Gunslinger, assisted in training the engineer Soldiers. This training sustains proficiency and enables air and ground synchronization during missions.
“Today’s air ground integration training was to help train the ground units that we support. And to assist them in understanding how they can better employ our Apaches and how we can be of more assistance to them during missions.”
Clarke, of Chugiak, Alaska, believes the training and rehearsals will pay dividends as the units continue to operate together in combat.
“The best reason to conduct this training is if there are troops in a contact situation, and they are practiced and are well rehearsed, we can perform better and execute our mission more precisely, he said.
The ultimate goal of air ground integration is to enable ground and air elements to effectively eliminate the threat of violent extremists while protecting the populace. This provides safe roads and protection for civilians and aids U.S. and Iraq Security Forces, creating stability.
Captain Christopher Zotter, of Holbrook, N.Y., who commands Whiskey Company, briefly discussed another benefit to conducting AGI training with associated units.
“The Army is always evolving so you always have new people coming in. As we draw down and do fewer operations, Soldiers have less chances to actually experience some things first hand. So we have to draw on previous experiences to make sure we are not forgetting lessons learned.”
These critical lessons learned can be the difference in saving a Soldier’s life, capturing a high value target, or avoiding collateral damage and fratricide while calling in a CCA. This particular training was split into a briefing and a walk around of the AH-64D Apache Attack helicopter, the flagship aircraft of TF Gunslinger.
“The Soldiers really enjoyed seeing the Apache up close,” said Capt. Benjamin Maher, TF Rogues’ fire support officer, of Portland, Ore. “It reminds me of when my Dad would take me to air shows when I was little. Platoon leaders on down to the riflemen’s faces light up when they get [into] the cockpit of one the Army's most lethal instruments.”
“This training will help us streamline how we do business. By seeing things from their perspective, it makes it much easier to plan, synch, and execute our targeting process,” he continued.
Clarke led the walk around of the aircraft explaining the systems and capabilities of the Apache.
A lot of Soldiers don’t understand how we can help. So we show them videos to demonstrate ‘this is what we actually see.’ When the Soldiers physically see the aircraft’s capabilities, they begin to understand how they can leverage what the Apache can do in combat, he said.
The AH-64D Apache attack helicopter contains many advanced capabilities such as the Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight /Pilot Night Vision Sensor, which provides a clear image of potential targets and enables location. It uses an advanced image processing techniques to enhance visibility so pilots have the best possible resolution with a three-field of view picture during night time and low-level flights.
The AH-64D also is equipped with a 30mm automatic M230 chain gun, located under its fuselage, which has a rate of fire of 625 rounds per minute. The aircraft can carry up to 1,200 rounds of ammunition. This compliments its air-to-surface Hellfire missiles and 2.75-inch rockets.
Other capabilities include an Infrared zoom pointer used for target marking and an Infrared strobe which assists in identifying friendly forces to avoid fratricide.
As aviators, Zotter and his pilots constantly conduct AGI training. He believes it was very beneficial to both Whiskey and Dawg Soldiers.
“Conducting the training, pilots get excited about the same mission they’ve been doing and maybe incorporate something new. Or they talk to a guy on the radio they just saw last week. It keeps the motivation high knowing that we are supporting our Soldiers on the ground,” he said. “I think the ground unit learned a lot from the training. I could see a few eyes lighting up in the brief. Even if just one or two of them walks away with something that helps us better support them or they’re able to clearly express to us what they want done, the training has been successful.”