Staff Sgt. Mike Alberts
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD — Since July, mission capable UH-60 Black Hawks, OH-58D Kiowas and CH-47D Chinook helicopters have been arriving by air and sea, for transport from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to here.
To the casual observer, it’s just another Army aviation movement, no different from countless others. To the Soldiers of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, nothing could be further from the truth.
The flurry of aviation activity reflects a pioneering effort by 25th CAB leadership, Army Sustainment Command, Army Aviation and Missile Command, and a host of other aviation Soldiers and civilian personnel, to employ a novel method of redeploying aviation assets from a combat zone — maximizing helicopter reset resources while prioritizing the needs of aviation commanders, both in garrison and at war.
Historically, when an aviation unit redeploys from war, it transports its helicopters in mass to its home station or to one or more reset facilities. The aircraft are transitioned through a rigorous reset program wherein each helicopter is inspected, repaired and overhauled. This process is time consuming and may not meet the training and equipment needs of redeploying and deploying aviation units.
ASC, AMCOM and 25th CAB leadership recognized these shortcomings and pioneered a new approach, one that may serve as a model for future aviation movements, according to Maj. Brian Watkins, executive officer, 25th CAB.
“During our deployment, it became apparent that (certain) deployed units in Afghanistan were in need of aircraft, and that we could assist the 1st CAB, the unit that replaced us, by leaving (command and control aircraft) with them when we redeployed,” Watkins said. “Additionally, in order to get the remainder of our aircraft immediately incorporated into the Army reset program, we sent the remaining 32 aircraft, via strategic airlift, to two reset facilities on the mainland.”
The 25th CAB, AMCOM and ASC figured out a way to swap aircraft and maximize available resources to meet the needs of deploying and deployed units, and those set to deploy in the near future, according to Doug Woolley, civilian reset team leader in support of operations, 406th Army Field Support Bde., ASC, who was involved in program oversight.
The Army wanted to take advantage of idle capacity in the Army’s helicopter reset lines on the mainland, Watkins said. In addition, releasing aircraft to other units and sending 25th CAB’s aircraft into reset would ensure that the 3rd Inf. Div.’s CAB at Fort Stewart, Ga., would have reset-complete aircraft within a month or so of its return from Afghanistan. In exchange, the 25th CAB would receive reset-complete aircraft from the 10th CAB at Fort Drum, N.Y., Wolley explained.
“We had our 402nd AFSB that is stationed at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, sign for the 25th CAB’s helicopters, relieving them of responsibility for the aircraft before they redeployed,” Woolley said. “(Together), we then coordinated for the 25th CAB to receive aircraft that were reset-complete once they returned to Hawaii.
“We really pushed the envelope of what had never been done before,” he continued. “It was an absolute success and win-win from the reset management perspective.
“(The new approach) demonstrates the agility of the AFSB to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of Army aviation commanders,” Woolley added, “and it gets the correct aircraft to the right place at the optimal time for both the releasing and acquiring units.”
As a result of these methods, the 25th CAB is receiving ready-to-fly aircraft just 90 days after returning from Iraq.