by Spc. Aubree Rundle
Task Force Pegasus Public Affairs
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan—Aviation Soldiers from Company E, 1st Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment, Arizona National Guard, were awarded the Basic Aviation Badge for their volunteer service as door gunners during Operation Enduring Freedom VIII Aug. 18.
Army Sgt. John J. Jones, Spc. William T. Arnell, Spc. Phillip G. Bencomo, Spc. Jose A. Holguin, Spc. Ronald R. Krish, Spc. Michael B. Smith and Spc. David L. White were recognized for their certified training and execution of duties during aviation operations as door gunners with Co. C, 2nd Assault Helicopter Batallion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
The esprit de corps between the two companies is a direct reflection of the aviation Soldiers who take on their initial responsibilities and also volunteer to support aviation assets in the overall mission, said Army 1st Sgt. Julio Romero, Co. E, 1st Battalion, 285th Avn. Reg.
Qualified as maintenance and other support military occupational specialists, these seven Soldiers volunteered to take on the responsibility of ensuring aircraft security during aviation missions.
"This is a great honor for these Soldiers and they've earned the recognition," said Army 1st Sgt. Trevor Graham, Co. C, 2nd Ba. 82nd AHB. "They've played a vital role in our operation."
All crew members must complete aircrew coordination training before they are eligible for flight missions, according to Army Sgt. Daniel Gettings, crew chief and flight instructor for Co. C, 2-82nd AHB. This training involves the fundamentals of the aircraft, how it operates and how to perform pre-flight inspections and duties.
After the academics are completed, the training begins. Door gunners are required to qualify on a M240H machine gun at the gunnery range and familiarize themselves with ammunition for aircraft weapon systems, said Gettings.
The flight training required to become a qualified door gunner is between 30-50 hours with the flight instructor present on the aircraft during a mission or training flight, said Gettings.
"My trust in these door gunners is the same as my crew chiefs; they have proven to be a great support to our mission," said Gettings. "Some of these door gunners have more combat flight experience than crew chiefs—we all work together."
"I volunteered because I wanted to take part in not only the maintenance of aircraft, but also the overall mission for aviation support and make a difference," said Arnell, door gunner, Co. E, 1st Ba. 285th Avn. Reg. "This has been a very rewarding experience for me."
This work, Door gunners awarded Basic Aviation Badge, by SFC Aubree Rundle, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.