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    Goodbye to an old Friend



    Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman 

    82nd Combat Aviation Brigade

    FORT BRAGG, N.C. The OH-58D Kiowa Warrior has been a mainstay in the skies over the North Carolina and the Fayetteville community for over 25 years. The 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, made their final formation flight from Fort Bragg, N.C. April 15. The flight saw 32 helicopters flying in a formation from Fort Bragg to downtown Fayetteville and back to Simmons Army Airfield.

    “It’s bittersweet because it has been a pleasure to fly this aircraft and to ride this horse,” said Lt. Col. Adam Frederick, commander, 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd CAB. “We cranked every aircraft to do one more flight over Fort Bragg and Fayetteville.”

    The last ride was a tribute not only to those who support the unit, but also to those who have piloted and worked on the aircraft.

    “This tribute is multi-pronged,” said Frederick. “ First and foremost, it’s a tribute to the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior. Secondly, it’s a tribute and honor to each cavalry pilot that has ever flown the aircraft, to include those who have given their lives. It is also a tribute to the community that has shown us tremendous support over the years.”

    The flight was the last of the Kiowa Warrior, but also served as a final flight for two of the unit’s senior aviators, Chief Warrant Officers 4 Matthew Steele and Michael Eckhardt.

    “ I couldn’t think of a better time to finish my career than to finish alongside the air frame that I have flown for 17 years,” said Steele. “ I have served alongside remarkable men and women over the years and they are all heroes to me.”

    “It’s tough to retire, but it’s a new chapter that’s exciting to start,” said Eckhardt. “ The thing I will miss most is the brotherhood. You can replace every mechanical part, but you can’t replace the relationships you build along the way.”

    After the flight, the rotors will stop spinning until they are transported to Arizona for storage and purchase by other nations.

    “The cavalry has been changing horses throughout the years to continue what we do,” said Frederick. “The aircraft has grown old and its time to put it out to pasture for new horses.”

    With the OH-58D that the unit has been flying for over 25 years being put to pasture, the unit will continue to support the ground forces with a new horse to ride into battle.

    “The unit is not going away,” said Frederick. “Once we return from our rotation to South Korea, we will reorganize with AH-64 Apaches and unmanned aerial vehicles. The spirit of the air cavalry that has lived in the Kiowa Warrior will live on in the Apache.”

    The sound of the cavalry has always been a sound familiar to ground forces, dating back to its predecessors who rode into battle on their four-legged steed.

    “This aircraft has a distinct sound that our ground brethren have grown accustomed to,” said Frederick. “Just like the ground forces of old, they knew the cavalry was coming.”

    With the last flight, pilots recalled their favorite memory of answering the call of the ground forces they have supported for so long.

    “One day in my mind that will always stand out is October 13, 2011 in the Kunar Valley of Afghanistan,” said Eckhardt. “There was a large ground operation going on that had come into heavy enemy contact in the past. The enemy attacked the ground forces and we were there to give them the armed reconnaissance support they needed. We were able to help the ground forces minimize the number of casualties.”

    The countless hours flown, the numerous combat missions over years in the pilot’s seat leave Eckhardt with one final thought.

    “There is no greater satisfaction that a total stranger shaking your hand and going sir without you, I wouldn’t be here,” said Eckhardt. “That’s what I am going to look back on and take the most pride in.”



    Date Taken: 04.15.2016
    Date Posted: 04.18.2016 10:43
    Story ID: 195654
    Location: FORT BRAGG, NC, US 

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