Story by Maj. Enrique T. Vasquez, CAB 1Infantry Divison Public Affairs Office
Before any mission takes off, 3-1 AA crews check and verify each integral component of their aircraft ensuring it is safe to fly.
"We conduct pre-flight checks, looking for show stoppers, and for deficiencies that might keep the aircraft from flying. The pilots do the run-ups."
"They get the APU (auxiliary power unit) going and load the fills radio codes and check the radios. The pilots turn the blades, do an engine HIT (health indicator test) check and get ready to fly," said Sgt. Charles Ceideburg, Company B, 3-1.
After the Black Hawk pilots are satisfied, the crew chiefs take over and ensure passengers safely board the aircraft.
"We make sure those approaching don't endanger themselves while boarding, so we make sure they enter and exit from the 3 and the 9 o'clock position. We then make sure everybody is secure with seatbelts fastened, and nobody is going to fall out of the aircraft," said Ceideburg.
"Passenger safety is not really an issue with us as long as they get their seatbelt on and follow the directions of the crew chief," said Spc. Jacob Norotsky, Co. B, 3-1.
Unlike flight attendants back home, a crew chief is trained to protect his or her passengers.
"Everybody here is qualified to fire their weapon a M240 door gun used for the security of passengers," said Norotsky.
"So, you might as well be getting in your van back home and going to the grocery store, we are going to keep you that safe."
Crew chiefs must remain proficient with their door guns, since they often have to stand ready to support combat missions outside the wire.
"Air assaults are something we do to bring the fight to the insurgents instead of them bringing it to us. It's an achievement for us because we know we are bringing the fight right to the insurgents doorstep by getting the troops there," said Sgt. Fredrick Benuzzi, a crew chief with Co. B.
"I have great respect for the guys we're dropping off because they are really doing an awesome job," said Benuzzi.
Another facet of the Nightmare's battlefield mission is the transport of injured Soldiers.
"We also conduct casualty evacuation and medical evacuation, which are pretty important in moving Soldiers off the battlefield and getting them to hospitals," said Benuzzi.
Using Black Hawks to move troops has two major advantages over ground transport.
"The aviation mission is one of the most important on the battlefield right now because we move Soldiers rapidly, and it is safer, than traveling on the ground. By flying Soldiers avoid IEDs," said Chief Warrant Officer Kenneth Biddulph, pilot, Co, B.
"You keep everybody off the ground, not everybody has to convoy back and forth, and bypass IED's, the number one killer of soldiers nowadays being," said Ceideburg.
Overall, moving Soldiers in Iraq via the Black Hawk benefits the Army and the Soldier.
"If I can pick-up a Soldier regardless of what their mission is or regardless where they have to go on the battlefield that brings down their stress level. This is also an asset to the Army because by flying we lose fewer soldiers," Biddulph.
"It is safer to fly with us than any mode of travel in Iraq. We are going to keep Soldiers off the roads so they don't have to worry about IEDs," said Norotsky.