News: Apache pilots – heavy hitters
Story by Sgt. Daniel Schroeder
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – “It has been a dream of mine ever since I was a child,” and “Aviation has been a part of my family,” are some reasons pilots decided to be aviators. While on the road to becoming a pilot, soldiers have the opportunity to think about what aircraft they envision themselves flying.
The pilots of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, wanted to fly the AH-64 Apache helicopter.
“I wanted to fly the Apache because of the capabilities it possesses,” said 1st Lt. Edwin Mobley, Scout Platoon Leader, Company A, 1-2 AVN, Task Force Lightning Horse, 25th CAB, originally from Beech Grove, Ind. “Our aircraft allows us to jump from mission to mission in a short amount of time. The Apache has the ability to control the airspace, like an aerial quarterback. We can take the burden off the ground guys to coordinate the airspace, such as call for extra assistance or MEDEVAC help.”
The AH-64 can carry a combination of Hellfire missiles, 70 mm rockets, and up to 1,200 rounds of ammunition for its 30-mm M230E1 Chain Gun. The AH 64’s stub wings allow for a customizable load to fulfill numerous roles.
The AH-64D Apache pilots use the aircraft’s capabilities to build a reputation that is known wherever the aircraft goes.
“We are a highly sought-after resource,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 William Jones, an instructor pilot for Company B, 1-2 AVN, TF Gunfighters, 25th CAB, a native of Kopperl, Texas. “The fire power of the aircraft intimidates people. This is based on the fact that the enemy stops doing bad things to good people when we show up.”
Other pilots in the unit echo Jones’ view of the Apache reputation.
“Whenever we fly, our presence is known,” said 1st Lt. James Raymond, an AH-64D Apache pilot with B/1-2 AVN, TF Gunfighters, 25th CAB, and a native of San Antonio, Texas. “The fear of the Apache has a great effect on the battlefield.”
The transition from a training environment to a combat environment for the Apache varies greatly due to the diversity of missions and the pace the missions are conducted.
“Going from a garrison setting to deployment setting is a big difference,” said Mobley. “For me, as a new aviator, the transition to a combat setting has been like a fire hose of learning. In school, we had to memorize everything. Out here, we get to apply it all.”
For an Apache pilot at Forward Operating Base Tarin Kowt, the average mission day includes conducting deliberate missions or sitting on stand-by as a Quick Reaction Force that supports MEDEVAC missions or ground force’s requests.
Daily operations for AH-64 pilots at Kandahar Airfield differ from those at FOB Tarin Kowt.
“The missions at TK are a very direct support role with Australian Forces there. Here we provide constant coverage to the ground forces,” said Mobley. “On a typical day we will fly out, check with patrols, and if a target of opportunity arises, we maneuver to act quickly. We prevent the enemy freedom to maneuver while dwindling their supplies.”
Even though the pilots know their actions protect the guys on the ground, they are told just how important their job really is.
Mobley said, “It’s a good feeling when after a flight, a private first class from the ground patrol you covered comes up to you and thanks you for protecting their unit during their mission so they can see their babies again.”