By Spc. Jerome Bishop, 1st COSCOM PAO
The final three of eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters departed Pope Air Force Base Jan. 29 to be sent to the Soldiers of the 1st Support Battalion, or Task Force Sinai, 1st Corps Support Command, in support of the Multinational Force Observer in Egypt.
Task Force Sinai Soldiers have previously been conducting missions with Vietnam-era UH-1H Huey helicopters since the beginning of the MFO operations for missions such as transporting troops and supplies, search and rescue missions and medical evacuations.
However, the Black Hawk is replacing older, obsolete helicopters as part of the transformation of the Army's Aviation Corps, including the Hueys in the Sinai.
The first five Black Hawks made their way to Soldiers in the Sinai in December 2005 via a chartered Russian-made Antonov AN-124 Condor.
"This mission was different in that we used an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III instead of the contracted AN-124," said Maj. Joe Martini, aviation readiness officer from the Corps Distribution Command, 1st COSCOM. "There was a little more required by the Air Force."
The process of loading helicopters onto a cargo jet was almost the same. According to Martini, there was only one difference.
"The only thing that made this mission more difficult was the changes [in the schedule]," Martini said. "We went through a lot of changes waiting for the (C-17) to show up, but we were ready since mid-January. Some of the problems with the arrival was from aircraft and crew availability for the Air Force."
As with any Army operation, one of the most important requirements is the proper use of teamwork, which as Martini pointed out, was as important in this operation as with any other.
The XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, the 1st COSCOM, 18th Aviation Brigade, the Air Force at Pope Air Force Base, and the MFO in the Sinai were only a few of the key organizations involved in this operation, Martini said.
"It was a tremendous amount of cooperation to make this mission happen in such a short period of time," said Martini. "No one organization or individual could have pulled this off without the rest of the team and there were a lot of people in a lot of places that brought this mission to completion."
The execution of loading the Black Hawks onto the C-17, once it arrived only served to reinforce the ability of teamwork of those responsible for making this mission happen.
"From start to finish, it took two hours and 45 minutes and that was from lowering the ramp of the aircraft to securing the last chain and walking away," said Martini. "We were (initially) figuring anywhere from four to five hours."
"The level of expertise from the deployment support team and the 82nd CAB made [the operation] run as smooth as it did. The 82nd CAB are the experts at loading that type of aircraft," Martini added.
The Black Hawks departed Pope AFB for the Middle East shortly before 1 p.m. Jan. 30 where they'll be received shortly and put to use.
"MFO will have all the helicopters on the ground Feb. 1," said Martini. "They'll continue to train all their pilots and they'll start flying only the UH-60s by the end of March. After that they'll begin to retrograde the Hueys back to the Continental U.S."