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    Flying Dragon’s adaptability valuable to RC-South

    Flying Dragon's adaptability valuable to RC-South

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Houston | An Afghan soldier serving with the 205th Corps, Afghan National Army, sits aboard a...... read more read more

    AFGHANISTAN - The rhythmic pulse of the helicopter rotors and the clanking of the mechanics tools provided a beat for the aviation Soldiers who worked fluidly to a well choreographed routine on Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. This section of busy flightline is controlled by the 1st General Support Aviation Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment, 16th Combat Avn. Brigade, also known as the Flying Dragons.

    The Flying Dragons are a task force that uses various models of the Chinook and Black Hawk helicopter to carry out a very versatile and far-reaching mission to support military operations for Regional Command-South.

    “Task Force Flying Dragon’s mission is to provide aviation support to Regional Command-South and the International Security Assistance Force,” said Lt. Col. Tom Barrett, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, who serves as commander of the Flying Dragons. “It’s composed of UH-60A, UH-60L, UH-60M (Black Hawks), and CH-47F (Chinook) aircraft. There are maintenance and mission command sections to support twenty-four hour operations.”

    Although all of their operations are done completely from above, their motives are well grounded. The Flying Dragons work directly with troops on the ground to ensure mission success and safety.

    “Our focus is to support the ground force commander, and ensure that he accomplishes his mission,” said Maj. Pearl Christensen, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., who serves as executive officer for the Flying Dragons. “From me as the executive officer, to the private that works on Black Hawks or Chinooks, our focus is to make that mission succeed.”

    Barrett explained that the task force responds to whatever the mission calls for on the ground, from removing the wounded from the battlefield, to troop resupply.

    “We provide medevac, key leader movements, heavy-lift air assault, air movement of personnel, equipment and supplies throughout RC-South, Southwest, and West for both conventional and special operations forces,” Barrett said.

    The Flying Dragons also support other nations who are engaged in operations aiding the Afghan National Security Forces to become a self-sustaining force.

    “A lot of our missions are very combined; the ground forces are working closely with the Afghan National Security Forces, so therefore we are working closely with the ground forces too,” Christensen said. “We fly our partnered nation soldiers and units on our aircraft for joint ANSF air assaults, and we support them if they get injured.”

    As U.S. forces reduce their footprint in Afghanistan, the Flying Dragons are drawing down rotary assets, while simultaneously keeping up with the operational tempo and moving Service members in from outlying bases that are closing.

    “We’ve had to adjust our footprint here to support the additional folks moving back to KAF. Our presence is drawing down, so our focus has changed to getting our numbers to coincide with the Resolute Support Mission.”

    Meeting mission standards often requires Soldiers to step out of their comfort zone and broaden their skills by taking on new or extra responsibilities. RC-South’s complex draw down has provided valuable opportunities for the Flying Dragon’s Soldiers to adapt and increase their aviation capabilities.

    “Dealing with constant change has required us to embrace adaptability,” Barrett said. “This deployment has required the task force to develop a leadership laboratory of sorts for every operation and section. I cannot think of a single section that has not cross-trained in some manner. It has required Soldiers to work closely together, and learn multiple jobs.”

    “This is the first deployment for the battalion as a collective unit and team with the 16th CAB. Our Soldiers are taking away a sense of accomplishment and teamwork,” Barrett said. “They know their work matters. I cannot say enough about the discipline and mission focus our Soldiers and leaders have, and I am extremely proud to serve with them.”

    Christensen described some of the task force’s accomplishments and dedication to see their mission through to the end of Operation Enduring Freedom and establish a good beginning of the Resolute Support Mission.

    “Since April, we’ve flown approximately 8,200 hours and performed over 3,300 missions,” Christensen said. “We just began the brigade’s first step in downgrading by sending the first three Black Hawk’s home on the 6th of September. We’re ready, we know that the end is near, and we’re taking our time and setting the stage so we start RSM right.”

    Christensen explained that once the Flying Dragons draw down their aircraft to the established number for Resolute Support Mission, their mission lacks just one more step before completion: handing the Army’s aviation mission and continued legacy of supporting troops on the ground in RC-South to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Aviation Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 09.10.2014
    Date Posted: 09.10.2014 12:33
    Story ID: 141663
    Location: AF
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