USAFRICOM, AT SEA
Story by Maj. Randy Stillinger
36th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – As winter weather appears on the horizon in the United States, the blowing sand of the Kuwaiti desert continues to challenge its Army Aviators.
Since their arrival in Kuwait, Charlie Company, 2-238th General Support Aviation Battalion has endured harsh conditions that few Americans will ever experience.
These Army National Guard soldiers from Indiana and Kentucky, and their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, are deployed with the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Their mission is to provide Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) capabilities to the region and build partnerships with countries that will further long-term stability in and around the Arabian Gulf.
For the deployment Charlie Company was actually split into two “phases” with both groups serving nine-month tours, one after another. The company swapped out in September.
Charlie Company actually has a front row seat for what may be the future of Army Aviation operations in the post-Iraq/Afghanistan era as they venture out over the water. Once used as a stepping stone for units headed north into Iraq, Camp Buehring is their home base for operations and training missions across the region.
A significant key to regional security is the free flow of maritime traffic in the Arabian Gulf. Of particular importance is the Strait of Hormuz between the United Arab Emirates and Iran, which is crucial to the export of oil to the world market.
Working over the water and embarking on ships is a new skill for most Army Aviators, but these soldiers have risen to the challenge. Maritime missions for Black Hawk helicopters include Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Medical Evacuation, the transfer of personnel and logistics support to U.S. ships in the area. These overwater missions require Army Aviators to add challenging tasks and extensive knowledge to an already long list of training requirements.
Maj. Bryon Blohm, who commanded Phase 1, said, "The personnel recovery mission executed by MEDEVAC is a unique opportunity to leverage existing assets in this theater to meet today's joint operational environment."
Although utilizing the helicopter’s ability to hoist patients from the ground into the aircraft is common for these aviators, a recent training event challenged even the most experienced MEDEVAC pilots. The training included flying out into the Persian Gulf off the coast of Kuwait to a U.S. Army cargo transport ship.
A Flight Medic was then lowered from the hovering helicopter onto the cargo deck of U.S. Army Vessel (USAV) SP/4 James A. Loux (LSV-6). A simulated “patient” was then loaded into a rescue basket and then hoisted into the waiting aircraft for the flight back to a hospital on land.
Overwater hoisting mission is normally carried out by Coast Guard or Naval aviators so this type of training for the Army is somewhat uncommon. Capt. Scott Oden, the Company Commander for Phase 2, said that to his knowledge this has never been done before by Army soldiers from Kentucky or Indiana.
Oden, of Indianapolis, said, “We’re here to develop the training, the Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP) so we can go back and continue to train our crew members to be able to respond in a moment’s notice from anywhere in Kuwait.”
The soldiers are also working with the Kuwaiti Air Force and other multi-national partners in the region to strengthen their ties, execute joint training events, and learn best practices from each other to provide long-term stability.
The 1-189th General Support Aviation Battalion from Montana serves as the company’s higher headquarters for this deployment. Lt. Col. Jamie Wilkins, who serves as the battalion’s commander, said that he’s very proud of everything that the MEDEVAC company has done since they’ve arrived and is impressed with their initiative to take on new and challenging training.
Oden also appreciates all the support that they’ve received from home since they left.
“We know that you have a very difficult job maintaining the home front as well as sacrificing your time,” Oden said. “It does not go unnoticed. We’re very appreciative of it and we’re looking forward to seeing you.”
The second half of the company will return home to their respective bases in Shelbyville, Ind., and Frankfort, Ky., in the spring of 2014.
||USAFRICOM, AT SEA
||FRANKFORT, KY, US
||INDIANAPOLIS, IN, US
||KELLER, TX, US
||MORGANS POINT RESORT, TX, US
||SHELBYVILLE, IN, US
This work, Kentucky and Indiana soldiers cross from desert to the sea, by MAJ Randall Stillinger, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.