USNS Benavidez offloads 25th CAB helicopters

| January 25, 2013 | 0 Comments
The USNS Benavidezhe offloads a CH-47 Chinook helicopter using a crane, at Pearl Harbor, Jan. 16.

The USNS Benavidez offloads a CH-47 Chinook helicopter using a crane, at Pearl Harbor, Jan. 16.

Story and photos by
Donna Klapakis
599th Transportation Surface Brigade Public Affairs

When the 25th Infantry Division’s 25th Combat Aviation Brigade returns to work after its redeployment, 65 of its helicopters will be different than those it took to Afghanistan.

Instead of the usual route from Afghanistan across the Pacific back to Hawaii, the helicopters that came into Pearl Harbor onboard the USNS Benavidez, Jan. 15, began their journey in Savannah, Ga., Dec. 24, and came through the Panama Canal.

Lt. Col. Paul Belobrajdic, U.S. Army-Pacific deputy operations officer for aviation, said the 3rd CAB, 3rd Infantry Division, swapped its helicopters in Georgia for the 25th CAB’s helicopters already in place in Afghanistan.

The helicopters were offloaded from the Benavidez, Jan. 16-17, at Pearl Harbor, and began flying back to Wheeler Army Airfield, Jan. 18. The aerial convoys of helicopters completed the short flight from the harbor to WAAF by Jan. 25.

Because the pilots for the 25th CAB have just returned from Afghanistan, pilots from Korea and Alaska piloted the helicopters from Pearl Harbor to Wheeler.

“We wanted to give the 25th CAB pilots a chance to get their feet on the ground after their redeployment and have their block leave. This also gives pilots from Alaska and Korea a chance to get used to flying in Hawaii,” said Maj. Robert Holcombe, 25th ID operations.

A Black Hawk is carefully offloaded from the USNS Benavidez.

A Black Hawk is carefully offloaded from the USNS Benavidez.

Black Hawks were the first off the ship, and a difficulty became apparent early when a problem with clearance for the helicopters developed because of the angle of the stern ramp at high tide.

The captain of the Benavidez added ballast, and the offload crew built some extra ramps out of two-by-six planks to lengthen the angle at both the top and the bottom of the stern ramp.

They also had to manually strap up the rear of the Black Hawks to clear the lip at the top of the ramp for a few of the helicopters to keep them from getting high-centered at that angle.

Because the stern ramp door does not have much clearance for Black Hawks’ tail rotors, another contractor had to climb up onto the tail to monitor clearance at the top as the helicopters made their way down the ramp.

As the tide lowered, the contractors were able to speed up the offload a bit, but with a ship full of high-value items, they had to continue to move relatively slowly to pay attention to safety, said Carlos Tibbetts, 599th Transportation Surface Brigade terminal management chief.

“This offload went very well. They were able to offload the whole ship in one-and-a-half days.” Tibbetts said. “That seems like a long time to take for just 69 pieces, but except for the two containers, each piece had to be discharged one piece at a time, a time-consuming operation.”

As with most moves from Pearl Harbor, the Fleet Logistics Center there admirably handled the administration and logistics of the move.

On this move, an aviation contractor and 25th CAB Soldiers handled the actual offload, Tibbetts said.

The lift-off commenced at 4 p.m., Jan. 16.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Lance, 25th CAB, was impressed with the condition of the Chinooks the unit will receive.

“Those Chinooks are really low hours,” Lance said. “They are definitely high-end and younger birds.”

Two of the helicopters that were offloaded from the Benavidez will go to the Hawaii Army National Guard.

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Category: News

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