Story and photo by
Sgt. Daniel Schroeder
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Pilots of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, knew they wanted to fly the AH-64 Apache helicopter.
“I wanted to fly the Apache because of the capabilities it possesses,” said 1st Lt. Edwin Mobley, scout platoon Leader, Company A, 1-2nd Avn., Task Force Lightning Horse, 25th CAB.
“Our aircraft allows us to jump from mission to mission in a short amount of time,” he continued. “The Apache has the ability to control the airspace, like an aerial quarterback. We can take the burden off the ground guys to coordinate the airspace, such as call for extra assistance or MEDEVAC help.”
The AH-64 can carry a combination of Hellfire missiles, 70 mm rockets and up to 1,200 rounds of ammunition for its 30 mm M230E1 chain gun. Its stub wings allow for a customizable load to fulfill numerous roles.
Apache pilots use the aircraft’s capabilities to build a well-known reputation.
“We are a highly sought-after resource,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 William Jones, an instructor pilot for Co. B, 1-2nd Avn., TF Gunfighters. “The firepower of the aircraft intimidates people. This is based on the fact that the enemy stops doing bad things to good people when we show up.”
Other pilots in the unit echo Jones’ view of the Apache’s reputation.
“Whenever we fly, our presence is known,” said 1st Lt. James Raymond, an AH-64D Apache pilot with B/1-2 Avn., TF Gunfighters. “The fear of the Apache has a great effect on the battlefield.”
The transition from the training to combat environment for the Apache varies greatly due to the diversity and pace of missions conducted.
“Going from a garrison setting to a deployment setting is a big difference,” said Mobley. “For me, as a new aviator, the transition to a combat setting has been like a fire hose of learning. In school, we had to memorize everything. Out here, we get to apply it.”
For an Apache pilot at Forward Operating Base Tarin Kowt, the average mission day includes conducting deliberate missions or sitting on stand-by as a Quick Reaction Force to support medical evacuation missions or the ground force’s requests.
Daily operations for AH-64 pilots at Kandahar Airfield differ from those at FOB Tarin Kowt.
“The missions at TK are a very direct support role with Australian Forces there. Here we provide constant coverage to the ground forces,” said Mobley. “On a typical day, we will fly out, check with patrols … and, if a target of opportunity arises, we maneuver to act quickly. We prevent the enemy freedom to maneuver while dwindling their supplies.”
The pilots know their actions protect the guys on the ground, and the Soldiers tell them just how important their job really is.
“It’s a good feeling when, after a flight, a private first class from the ground patrol you covered comes up to you and thanks you for protecting their unit during their mission, so they can see their babies again,” said Mobley.