[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                         July 11, 2008
Training

Missouri Guard Apache helicopter 
crews practice attacks

By Michelle Key, The Real McCoy Contributor

      FORT MCCOY, Wis. --  Rocket fire lit up the Wisconsin night sky above the range where Missouri Army National Guard Apache pilots were conducting training.

Photo: An AH-64 Apache helicopter from the 20th Combat Aviation Brigade fires a rocket during live-fire training at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Billy Cargile)
An AH-64 Apache helicopter from the 20th Combat Aviation Brigade fires a rocket during live-fire training at Fort McCoy . 
(Photo by Billy Cargile)

      This year, more than 575 Missouri Guardsmen from the 20th Combat Aviation Brigade traveled to Fort McCoy for their annual Extended Combat Training (ECT) session.

      Throughout the training, several units worked together to keep the attack helicopters flying, ensuring the brigade was fully self-sufficient, with pilots, mechanics, ammo, fuelers, medics, cooks and many other support roles.

      "This is the first time we've conducted a brigade-level (ECT) training in the past 12 years," said Maj. Nicholas Miller, of Warrensburg, Mo. "The performance of the brigade and battalions exceeded everyone's expectations. We worked together and completed the mission."

Photo: Soldiers from the 20th Combat Aviation Brigade perform routine maintenance on an AH-64 Apache helicopter. (Photo by Billy Cargile)
Soldiers from the 20th Combat Aviation Brigade perform routine maintenance on an AH-64 Apache helicopter. 
(Photo by Billy Cargile)

      Although the Wisconsin weather slowed the training with rainy days, by flying 24-hour rotations, the Soldiers still managed to finish their helicopter gunnery qualifications.

      "Qualifying depends on the pilots' ability and the time they put in," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Robert Moore, brigade master gunner. "The goal is to fly consecutively and consistently."

      To qualify, crews have to be proficient with machine guns, missiles and rockets. Because of weather, seven crews qualified during night fire, and all 11 crews successfully qualified during day fire.

      "The back seat pilot does the flying -- when you are in the front seat you are basically just shooting," said Warrant Officer Adam Jennings, a first-time qualifier. "Anytime you are in the aircraft its fun, but it was really fun to actually shoot and qualify."

      Though the pilots are the ones who have to qualify, success is the result of a team effort.

      "They can't qualify without us," said Spc. Bennie Caddick, of Miller, Mo., who serves in the 935th Aviation Support Battalion. "We are responsible for securing the ammo, tracking, loading, and transporting. Without us, the pilots have no ammo to fire."

Photo: An AH-64 Apache helicopter fires a rocket downrange. (Photo by Billy Cargile)
An AH-64 Apache helicopter fires a rocket downrange. 
(Photo by Billy Cargile)

       The pilots also need skilled mechanics to fix everything from armaments and weapons to electronics and computer systems. Some of those Soldiers serve on the Downed Aircraft Repair and Recovery Team, a first response team for broken aircraft.

      "If the aircraft is broken, they sit it down and it's the team's job to fix the problem," said team member Staff Sgt. Brian Johnson, of Spring Hill, Kan. "It's our job to make sure all the aircraft (equipment) gets home."

      For more information about the Missouri National Guard, call (800) Go-Guard  (464-8273) or visit the Web site http://www.moguard.com.

(Keys is with the Missouri Army National Guard Public Affairs Office.)

 

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