Deployed Forces: ‘Archangels’ unite for lifesaving ops

| April 30, 2010 | 0 Comments

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

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq — The Soldier’s Creed is Army dogma, with every Soldier striving to adhere to such core beliefs as to “never leave a fallen comrade.” 

1st Lt. Stephen Bennie (center, with notebook), platoon leader, Task Force Wings’ Personnel Recovery Force, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, collects information from a ground force unit working in conjunction with an Iraqi Emergency Response Unit near Kirkuk, Iraq.In northern Iraq, Task Force Wings’ “Archangel” is the personnel recovery force hand selected to ensure that no Soldier is left behind.

According to Capt. Zachary Seidel, commander, TF Wings’ Personnel Recovery Force, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), “Team Archangel” is designed to recover personnel on the battlefield, regardless of circumstance or environmental conditions. 

“We are a team of Soldiers designed to recover isolated personnel,” Seidel said. “It doesn’t matter whether that isolation is the result of a downed aircraft, a mechanical issue with a vehicle or helicopter, or even enemy contact. In that sense, the cause or circumstance doesn’t really matter. Our mission is to recover that individual or individuals.” 

Team Archangel is an air mobile force that travels by helicopter virtually anywhere on the battlefield in U.S. Division-North. Its value is in its mobility, speed and wealth of expertise. 

The unit integrates aviation Soldiers from 2nd Assault Bn., 25th Avn. Regt., TF Diamond Head, 25th CAB, with an infantry “Blues” Platoon from 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. According to Seidel, it’s a complementary mix perfectly suited for their unique mission set.

“The aviation brigade provides Soldiers with aviation experience on a variety of helicopters, as well as communications, medical, fire support and vehicle maintenance expertise,” he explained. “(The Blues Platoon) adds the necessary assault and fire support experience. 

“As an infantry officer, I can tell you that certain battle tasks come very naturally to an infantryman, like pulling security or reacting to enemy contact. Other tasks don’t,” Seidel said. “However, those that don’t come naturally to infantrymen tend to be very natural to our aviation rescue team — namely, certain mechanical and technical issues like the details of using a plasma cutter for instance. So, together as one team, there does not seem to be a problem or challenge that we cannot handle.” 

Task Force Wings’ Personnel Recovery Force Soldiers are transported in northern Iraq by a Hawaii-based UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter operated and maintained by air crews of 2nd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Diamond Head. Two of Seidel’s senior leaders are 1st Lt. Stephen Bennie, platoon leader, Blues Platoon Assault Force, and Staff Sgt. Andrew Cornwallis, operations noncommissioned officer, Team Archangel. Both agreed that the diversity of Team Archangel and its tireless commitment to training are its greatest strengths.

“The most challenging aspect of the mission from an infantry assault force perspective was simply understanding how aviation operates,” Bennie said. “We anticipated the challenge, trained for aviation operations before we arrived, and we continue to train to close the gap between aviation and infantry culture.”

“The combination works really well,” he continued. “In that sense, our greatest advantage is that we have a ton of varied experience within the unit and a great maturity in our Soldiers.”

“Our mission is definitely uniquely dynamic,” added Cornwallis. “We must have expertise in all areas of aviation operations. That need for expertise demands that our Soldiers are diverse and that our training is continual and comprehensive.

“Before we deployed, (Team Archangel) knew that we would need to integrate a security element into the mission set and we trained for it. It was challenging, but we have (bonded) very well. Our training was exceptional, our leadership is exceptional and our young Soldiers are exceptional,” he said.

Sgt. Timothy Robison and Spc. David Harrington are examples of the team’s diversity. Robison is a fire support specialist from the Blues Platoon, while Harrington is a medic with the aviation rescue team element. 

Both Soldiers have previous combat tours in Iraq, and each appreciates the unique opportunity presented by the Archangel mission.

“I have previous experience working with infantry units during my last deployment, and honestly thought it would be really tough integrating aviation with infantry,” said Harrington. “But it has worked really well, and to get to be a part of such a (high profile) mission is really exceptional.” 

“I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the (Archangel) mission,” Robison said. “I wanted to come back to Iraq to make a difference. Our team has that opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our own — to save lives. All of our Soldiers are proud of that.”

Category: Deployed Forces, News

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