Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Ft Sill Update

"Rock Drill" map on hanger floor

It's kind of funny with my background being in Field Artillery that our mobilization site is Ft Sill, the Army's home for all things artillery. I was last here a couple years ago for annual training with A Battery, 2-180FA. While the facilities and support are OK, we are kept fairly isolated from the main portion of the base and have limited transportation. I also have to admit to being confused as to why this is an aviation mob site. The area is not particularly well suited to training for either the desert (Iraq) or mountain (Afghanistan) environment, and aside from the fact that there is an airfield here there doesn't seem much to commend it. There are quite a few ranges, but most are dedicated to howitzer and rocket fire. It seems to me that Ft Hood in Texas, Ft Carson in Colorado or Ft Rucker in Alabama would make more sense since they actually have the infrastructure built in. This is particularly evident for terrain flight and air assault training where the area available is limited. The aerial gunnery options are also tight compared to the Barry Goldwater range in southern Arizona that we're used to. This is not to say that the training is ineffective, it's just somewhat limited by the environment. Of course, we also don't have the same preflight hazards here as back home.

I think this guy wanted to go for a ride

Once we leave the military reservation for cross country flights the local area does work well for us, although I'm not used to having the machine guns out when flying over civilian populations. We don't carry ammunition on these flights, but I really don't like training the weapon anywhere people might be even unloaded. We have flow several missions to local airports practicing what are called ring routes where we deliver people and cargo where they're needed. These flights usually consist of three to four hours of flight time with landings at several fields and are used to evaluate our ability to execute missions on time with minimal notice while having to deal with real and "notional" maintenance and scheduling issues. Our evaluators also throw in simulated mortar attacks and other environmental problems to stress the system. While is seems trivial, just the mechanics of getting helicopters, weapons and crews all together and ready to go at the right time takes some practice. Once all the pieces are in place the crews are evaluated during the flights for their ability to perform the various crew functions, communicate effectively and operate as a team in simulated combat conditions.

As a crew chief once we're on our mission profile the primary responsibility is maintain airspace and surface surveillance, sometimes referred to as looking out the window. Most of the area we fly over is farm country, and from the air it's beautiful country - one can see how a farmer gets so attached to their land. It's also a nice break when we get to talk with some of the locals during fuel stops. The high point for me so far was a stop at Duncan (waving to Bag Blog) where we were met by three local children who were clearly excited by our arrival, but demonstrated excellent airport manners by staying well away from the ramp area.

A photo op with our young visitors

Even when we invited them to come look at the helicopters they ran off and got permission from their father first, and asked very politely if it was alright to take pictures of us. I'm not sure who enjoyed the experience more, them or us.

Once the flying and maintenance for the day is done, we've still got things that need to be done. Nearly everyone has responsibilities that need to be taken care of in addition to our primary work. Safety, hazardous materials handling, training - lots of little behind the scenes things that can be tedious, but need to be done.

Tommy working on driver training documentation after hours

This coming week we'll be doing night missions so I'll be back on the night vision goggles. It will be interesting to see what kinds of missions we get.


MissBirdlegs in AL said...

Enjoyed the update. A lot more involved in your training than I'd given thought to.

Y'all probably made those kids' day. Wouldn't you have loved to hear what they said to their friends & family about it?

Bag Blog said...

Darn, I wish you could have stopped at the Lazy B and taken a picture with me and mine. My daughter is a sucker for anything helicopters. You can tell by her profile photo on her

Are you still at Ft. Sill?

Pogue said...

We're here for another month, give or take. We've now entered a different phase of our training so I'm not sure how many cross cross country flights we'll be doing. We're staying on the military reservation for aerial gunnery & stuff like that for the most part.

MissBirdlegs in AL said...

Hope all is well with you, Pogue. Happy Thanksgiving!