Before he flew Apaches, Chief Warrant Officer Three Scott Chapman, Company B "Bearcats", 1st Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, worked in a bank. His fellow pilot-in-command, Chief Warrant Officer Two Travis Sitter, also of Company B, drove a UPS truck in Montana. Now they are both flying Apache attack helicopters above and around the city of Tall Afar, Iraq, protecting the city and United States Army Soldiers of the 172nd Stryker Brigade from insurgents and terrorists.
The pilots all come from various backgrounds. Chief Warrant Officer Two Jay Porretta started off working on Apaches, after enlisting as an armament specialist, meaning he worked on the various weapons systems on the helicopter. Chief Warrant Officer Two Mike Leatherman was a tanker, meaning he worked in the armor units he now supports as an Apache attack helicopter pilot.
"If you look across our company, we all came just about every background you can imagine " we've had people who worked in the medical field, people who were paper pushers, infantry guys, everything," Chapman said.
Now they are all together doing what they love " flying an attack helicopter, supporting the infantry. Each pilot said they would rather fly the Apache than any other airframe in the Army.
"Have you seen the other Army airframes?" Porretta joked. "We're an attack helicopter; I never wanted to fly anything else." The pilots said they love the firepower and attack capability the Apache brings to the table and its advanced technology.
"The helicopter has great situational awareness," Poretta said. "We don't have to look down at a bunch of gauges to find out what we need to know. Everything we need to know, most of the flight information, is right in front of our eyepiece. The technology makes it easy to fly."
Chapman has now been flying Apaches for 10 years. He said he went to college with the intention of becoming a jet fighter pilot, and finished school in 1990 when the Gulf War ended. He said at the time the military was cutting back its forces, and it was unlikely he would get a chance to fly jets, so he started working at a bank. But he said his desire to fly never left.
"I still wanted to fly," he said. "I always wanted to be in the military and make a difference." Chapman said he talked with Army recruiters and learned about the warrant officer program. He was 27 years old, and said he feared he would not be accepted but did not want to give up on his dream and put in a flight packet anyway. Ten months later, he was notified that he was accepted. Chapman admitted that he and his wife, Jacquelyne, had to sacrifice their previous jobs, and a bit of income, to make his new career a reality, but with his wife's support he made it happen.
"I would have regretted it if I didn't do it," he said. The first step was basic training. After enlisting and completing basic, Chapman went on to Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Rucker, Alabama, as a newly-promoted sergeant. He then completed flight school and has been flying ever since.
Now Chapman flies on an almost daily basis as part of Task Force No Mercy. He said he is happy with the way his career panned out, especially since he flies much more than a jet pilot would. He also said he feels the Apache is a more challenging aircraft to fly since an Apache requires more effort on the pilot's part to fly. Sitter agreed.
"An airplane wants to fly," Sitter said. "If you let go of the controls on a helicopter, it's going to go all over the place.