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.
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.
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.
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.
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.