|Waiting to extract some MPs|
The last two weeks have been our annual training period, and unlike the last couple of years we actually got to do some training we needed instead of just fun stuff. To clarify, we have new pilots and crew chiefs that have to progress through a series of specific tasks before they can become qualified. While the Angel Thunder exercise last year and the Panama deployment the year prior were fun for those of us who were already qualified, and looked great on the battalion brag sheet, they didn't allow us to do the the progression training we really needed.
This year the number one mission was progression, and while we did have a couple of other commitments, they complemented rather that competed with our primary mission. As one of the crew chief flight instructors I spent most of the time on night shift working with our trainees who had progressed to the NVG (night vision goggles) portion of the training. The first couple of nights we supported some Air Force JTACs (Joint Tactical Air Controllers) in an exercise that involved us, combat search and rescue, a couple of Apache gunships, some F-16's and an AC-130. We used this opportunity to take one of our crew chiefs who was nearly completed with training for an exposure to a difficult mission in as close to combat conditions as possible. He did fine, and overall it was a good mission.
|The MPs getting their safety briefing from a crew chief prior to loading|
We also did a four ship night air assault to insert and extract some MPs in support of their training. This is one of our standard missions, but not something they get to do very often. We had to watch the weather since a storm was threatening the area, but it slid back down into Mexico so we didn't need to execute any of our contingency plans. It was a dark night, and dust was a bit of an issue, but the training went well.
The above video was taken by SSG Marco Lechuga, a former member of out unit. He's working with another command at the moment, but this is a small community so we expect him back eventually. It's a neat slow motion video of sling operations from the point of view of the hook up team. This night I was evaluating one of our trainees in NVG sling operations (he passed, btw). It was a tough night - we had dust blowing in and 22 knot gusts from the south (left on the video.) It kept both him and the pilot working. This is also a pretty good look at the world through NVGs. The bright light on the right of the helicopter is the red position light. It's actually no brighter than the green one on the other side, but the goggles are much more sensitive to red.