Sunday, October 04, 2009
The Mob Station
We've wrapped up our state training time now, and are officially mobilized on Federal orders. The last month has been busy, occasionally frustrating, but mostly productive. From a practical standpoint a National Guard aviation unit can be broken down to three type of soldiers. What most people think of for the Guard are "M-day" soldiers. These are the one weekend a month, two weeks annual training guys. The next group are AGR. These are full time National Guard soldiers in key positions. They can be thought of as kind of a cadre responsible for most of the organizational and planning tasks necessary for the unit to make their training time as effective as possible. Finally there are the technicians. While it's not a requirement for the job, many technicians are M-day soldiers whose full time jobs are maintenance and support government positions. When the unit is between drills these are the guys who do the work to keep the helicopters flying. Now that we're on an active duty status we've been working on two major tasks - first integrating the M-day soldiers into the full time maintenance process to clear as many "gripes" as possible on all the aircraft, get all the inspections coming due soon done so as not to interfere with our training requirements at Ft Sill, and to make sure all the helicopters are ready to go. The second task is to get the air crews current. While the Guard provides for additional training periods for aircrew, due to their full time jobs not everyone can take full advantage of the opportunity. These soldiers have been the priority for flights. Of course we've continued training on mobilization tasks, qualified everyone on aerial gunnery, had a PT test, etc. We also had the opportunity to spend a little time with family before leaving for Ft Sill.
The flight out was unremarkable taking about eleven hours of which about seven hours were actual flying time. (The video above of our departure was put together by Her Accuracy. Nice job, Sweetee!) We did stop a couple of times for fuel and lunch along the way. Unfortunately when we arrived we had to immediately proceed to an in briefing. I guess it's good to get it out of the way, but I'm pretty sure none of the flight crews retained any of the information. In addition to the thirty Blackhawks of our battalion there are a half dozen or so Chinooks from Ft Eustis here that are mobilizing for northern Iraq.
Our first few days here consisted of verifying paperwork, which went quickly, getting our RFI (Rapid Fielding Initiative) issue of flight suits and enough cold weather gear to keep us toasty in the outer reaches of the solar system. This confirmed to me that we are indeed going to the desert. My last deployment was to an area where "cold" meant 50 degrees, and they issued us gear better suited to the arctic.
The weather at Ft Sill didn't cooperate for the first week we were here, severely limiting our flying. This week the skies have cleared up and we've resumed crew training flights. Since I'm already qualified I'm only flying at night with the night vision goggles supporting pilot currency flights. We'll be starting our mission and evaluation flights before too long, until then I'll be doing a fair amount of maintenance work. We still have some ground training to do yet as well. Much of it is of limited value to an aviation unit, but after some regrettable training deficiencies that became apparent early on in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Army has decided that every one gets additional training on common soldier tasks prior to deploying.
Channel 3 news coverage of the departure.