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    The sky’s the limit for Maryland National Guard Soldiers

    The sky’s the limit for Maryland National Guard Soldiers

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Sarah Zaler | Spc. Austin Poe, left, a crew chief from Baltimore, and Pfc. Joshua Rendon, a...... read more read more



    Story by Sgt. Sarah Zaler 

    326th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    WAINWRIGHT, Alberta – As the rotors of a UH-60 Blackhawk spin faster and faster, blurring together in a circular streak against the vibrant hues of a setting sun, a flight crew prepares for takeoff.

    The pilots may get the glory and adoration of those watching from the ground as they gracefully lift the beast into the sky, but they know a successful mission isn’t possible without their crew chief.

    Becoming a crew chief is a progression from maintenance and repair to actually riding in the seat behind the cockpit and guiding the pilots on the flight. It requires dedication and hard work, which is nothing new for two Maryland National Guard Soldiers who chose the position.

    They are only a few years into their careers, but their love for the job and willingness to learn has them flying high on the path to success.

    Spc. Austin Poe, a 23-year-old crew chief with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, grew up in the aviation world. His grandfather was a pilot in Vietnam and his father was also a crew chief in the Army. The Baltimore resident said he first rode a helicopter when he was six months old, and for him, the attraction of flying is simply being in the sky.

    “It’s just different when you can see the world at 2,000 feet, or 10,000 feet,” said Poe. “You can just see everything for miles and miles and miles.”

    Going into aviation seems logical for someone like Poe, but not for someone like Pfc. Joshua Rendon, who is afraid of heights. The 25 year old from Frederick, Maryland, didn’t let that stop him when he joined the National Guard in 2014.

    “I wanted to be in aviation,” said Rendon, a helicopter repairer with the 224th. “I wanted to conquer my fear of heights.”

    Rendon is no stranger to overcoming hurdles. He said he had a hard time even joining the military because he was overweight, and part of the reason he joined was to prove his doubters wrong.

    “I just wanted to actually show a lot of people that told me I couldn’t do it, that I could,” said Rendon, who lost 60 pounds by the end of basic combat training to meet the weight standards.

    Rendon also chose aviation so he could put his mechanical skills to use on the complex aircraft. He said he gets that opportunity when conducting daily inspections on drill weekends, when he checks over the entire aircraft to ensure everything is working properly. He appreciates the mentorship he gets from his leaders as he learns the skills needed to progress to crew chief status.

    “There’s a lot of them that are very knowledgeable about everything,” said Rendon. “And I’ve been slowly picking apart their brain to know more about the aircraft.”

    Poe has already progressed to crew chief in his three years of service and said the position comes with a lot of responsibility. Crew chiefs not only maintain and repair the helicopters so they are safe and mission ready, they handle the loading of the aircraft, taking care of the passengers and making the terrain calls during flights.

    It requires a lot of trust between the crewmembers, and the safety of everyone onboard is in their hands.

    “The pilots are basically trusting us with every call we say,” said Poe. “For instance, at night time when we’re flying under goggles, and those pilots can’t see a single thing, they’re trusting our every command to get them into the right spot.”

    Poe’s goal is to become a pilot and said being a crew chief is the stepping-stone to get there. In the meantime, he is soaking up all the knowledge and experience he can from the pilots he works with.

    “I’m just a junior guy, really,” said Poe. “But I take everything they say very seriously because I have a huge attraction to it.”

    The work is hard, and the risk of a making a mistake could be deadly, but Poe and Rendon said they love the job because of the people they work with and camaraderie that develops between the crews.

    “It’s a brotherhood for us,” said Poe. “We’re a family.”



    Date Taken: 05.29.2017
    Date Posted: 05.29.2017 20:46
    Story ID: 235647
    Location: WAINWRIGHT, AB, CA 
    Hometown: BALTIMORE, MD, US
    Hometown: FREDERICK, MD, US

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