News: 1st Air Cavalry begins port operations
Story by Sgt. Alun Thomas
BEAUMONT, Texas – Apaches and Black Hawks lined the shipping yards, March 16, at the Port of Beaumont, as the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, began port operations in final preparation for their upcoming deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Weather hampered the first three days of operations, as heavy rain prevented the majority of aircraft arriving at port as scheduled on March 12, in order for the equipment to be loaded and shipped to Kuwait by vessel. Aircraft were finally given clearance to fly to Beaumont once weather cleared up, which meant a busy first day for port personnel.
Maj. Marcus Gengler, of Ontario, Calif., commander of Company B, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., said the 615th was designated as being in command of port operations in both Beaumont and Kuwait, his own role being officer-in-charge.
The brigade's plan today was to move 3rd Battalion's aircraft to port, and they were able to get all of them to Beaumont Airport, Gengler said, following the conclusion of the day's port activities. Even due to the limitations of the duty day and restrictions, they were only able to land a majority of them at the port.
Gengler said despite this, they were able to land other aircraft from 2nd General Support Aviation, 227th AR, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div.
"Weather unfortunately has had a vote and caused us to be behind the timeline," Gengler said. "Once the weather allowed us to get on deck; however, I was pleased with how operations went."
Chief Warrant Officer Donald Washabaugh, from Collingswood, N.J., brigade aviation maintenance officer, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., who oversaw the port operations, said the mission at port was to make the brigade's aircrafts boat ready.
"The first thing we did today was land the aircraft at port, and if we had the capabilities we tore them down to prepare them for ship," Washabaugh said, as the final Black Hawk landed on port nearby. "The ones that weren't ready we moved out of the landing zone and prepped while we didn't have good weather."
Washabaugh said security contingents from the Aviation Logistics Management department and each battalion had been provided to take care of their own aircrafts, who he watched over to ensure the correct preparation was completed.
"I have been orchestrating their work to make sure everything is sequenced properly and safely to achieve the end goal of having fully mission capable aircraft prepped for surface shipment on the boat," Washabaugh said.
Taking the weather concerns into consideration, things went as well as expected on the first day, Washabaugh said, adding safety and mission readiness are the main keys to any port operation program.
Coordinating the port operations from Fort Hood, Maj. James Smith, of Tulsa, Okla., brigade logistics officer, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div., said he too was pleased with the production levels of the first day of operations.
"We need to get this done so we can get overseas and do our job," Smith said. "We've been called to do it and we have been waiting to go, so we are at the point where it's time to get out of dodge and leave."
Smith said it would be untrue to say the port operations were a huge undertaking at the brigade level, instead labeling the proceedings as significant instead.
"Soldiers are busy moving this stuff out of port but also trying to get ready to leave themselves, so you have to balance your act," Smith said. "You just have to juggle both situations."