Deployed Forces: 2-159th ARB keeps ‘flying tanks’ downrange

| March 19, 2010 | 0 Comments

Story and Photo by
Staff Sgt. Mike Alberts
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division

TAL AFAR, Iraq — The Apache helicopter is designed to survive heavy attack and inflict massive damage. Its technical array of flight, weapons, sensor and armor systems requires a team of aviation Soldiers to keep these “flying tanks” operational.

In the far reaches of northern Iraq, that team is Company C, 2-159th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, patrolling more than 200 kilometers of open desert along the Iraqi-Syrian border from Contingency Operating Location Sykes, near here.

Chief Warrant Officer John Bilton (left) standardization pilot, and Chief Warrant Officer Bruno Guzman, maintenance test pilot, both assigned to Company C, 2-159th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 25th Infantry Division, conduct pre-flight inspections of an AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter prior to mission at Contingency Operating Location Sykes, near Tal Afar, Iraq, Feb 27.“Our mission is to support the ground maneuver units in our area of operation,” said Capt. John Landers, AH-64D Longbow pilot and commander, Co. C, 2-159th ARB, 25th CAB, 25th Inf. Div. “Basically, we assist Iraqi and U.S. ground forces with border security and reconnaissance along the Syrian and Iraq border to eliminate the smuggling of foreign fighters, terrorist facilitators and contraband.”

To date, Landers’ team has logged almost 3,000 flight hours and conducted more than 500 missions.

The unit accomplishes the mission not only with Co. C aircraft, pilots and air crew, but with an attachment of maintenance Soldiers from the battalion’s aviation maintenance company.

Collectively, the group calls themselves Task Force “Whiskey” after its unit call sign, a purposeful effort to unify a group of Soldiers who operate in relatively austere conditions, and with aircraft — the AH-64D Apache Longbow — that demands collective attention.

According to Landers, TF Whiskey operates around the clock, launching multiple aircrafts each day.

“Operationally, we work with an aviation unit that doesn’t have Apache aircraft,” Landers said. “As a result, we rely on our own internal capabilities for our maintenance needs, and that’s the biggest challenge.

“The team is performing phenomenally, and Soldiers are really staying on top of issues, being proactive, anticipating scheduled maintenance, and making sure parts are on hand,” he said.

1st Lt. Gavin Scheibe is an Apache pilot and platoon leader, Co. C, 2-159th ARB, 25th CAB, 25th Inf. Div. on his first deployment. Besides his flying responsibilities, he oversees a platoon of pilots, air crew and aircraft maintainers.

“I have been enjoying being up north with such a close unit,” Scheibe said. “Being separated requires you to jell.

“The flying has been challenging, but the fact that we have come together as a team so well has been the most rewarding aspect of the deployment so far. We’ve had a 100 percent mission launch rate, which shows that we’ve accommodated anything that has come up, and that’s due to the hard work of the maintainers, maintenance test pilots and others who do everything they can to keep the helicopters flying,” Scheibe said.

Launching an Apache helicopter is truly a collective effort.

Each launch requires two pilots, a crew chief and the watchful eye of one of the company maintainers.
Sgt. William Case is one of the flight-line supervisors and an Apache armament, avionics and electrical systems repairer.

“Only through cooperation can we get things accomplished,” Case said. “It’s working together that has made us so successful from a maintenance standpoint. We’ve got real dedicated Soldiers up here that put in long hours, and we’ve pulled together not as individual units, but as Task Force Whiskey.”

Category: Deployed Forces, News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *