Apache crews zero in on gunnery

| August 3, 2017 | 0 Comments
AH-64 Apache helicopters from 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment prepare to fire their weapon systems at targets on Pohakuloa Training Area. (U.S. Army photo)

AH-64 Apache helicopters from 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment prepare to fire their weapon systems at targets on Pohakuloa Training Area. (U.S. Army photo)

1st Lt. McCoy Bean
A Troop, 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment
25th Combat Aviation Brigade
25th Infantry Division

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD — Gunnery, the pilot’s equivalent of weapons qualification, serves as one of the cornerstones of an Apache crew’s training.

In an effort to maintain readiness, gunnery requires a crew to prove its ability to successfully engage 10 targets during both the day and the night.

While the actual practice of engaging a target with multiple weapons platforms shot from varying altitudes and speeds is challenging, planning and coordinating a gunnery qualification can prove just as difficult for the units stationed here.

The limited space and large civilian population on Oahu means that Apache crews and support personnel must take a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii for gunnery. Apache (AH-64D) gunnery exclusively occurs at the Pohakuloa Training Area, or PTA.

Handmade silhouettes by Range Control Maintenance. (Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Justin Braswell)

Handmade silhouettes by Range Control Maintenance. (Photo by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Justin Braswell)

With 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment’s reorganization to reflect a heavy cavalry mission and consequential increased focus on the AH-64D, the unit was prepared to spend a lot of time away from its flagpole and families to support this mission. However, the leaders at 2-6th CAV and range control for the island of Oahu came together to find a better cost effective solution. Just after this year’s Fourth of July weekend, the unit conducted its first gunnery qualification for the AH-64D on the island of Oahu.

Chief Warrant Officers 3 Ash Wiggins, Justin Braswell and Brandon Garner, and 1st Lt. Drake Fleming developed the original plans before bringing them to range control in April.

According to the range supervisor, Colby Fox, this was the key to making the training happen. Range control asks for a plan 45 days prior to execution; however, 2-6th CAV initiated the planning process three months prior. Fox contributed to the success of the gunnery from July 5-7 with constant communication and rapport built through planning sessions and rehearsals.

An AH-64 Apache Helicopter from 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment scans for targets during gunnery tables. (U.S. Army photo)

An AH-64 Apache Helicopter from 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment scans for targets during gunnery tables. (U.S. Army photo)

Many challenges developed through the planning process to include scheduling range time and space, as well as adjustments to targets for cultural site considerations, said Braswell. The operations officers at 2-6th CAV explained that Ken Torre and his maintenance crew bent over backwards to make this possible, to include hand-welding steel targets that could stand up to Apache training rounds.

Additionally, other unexpected factors helped to make this event possible. In years past, aerial gunnery was accomplished by Kiowa Warriors (OH-58) on the Makua side of the mountain range. Due to cultural site concerns, the Makua training area is closed to large events until further notice, affording aviation assets an opportunity to adjust and train on the Schofield side, Garner said.

This training event incorporated three separate air assets (Unmanned Aerial System-V2 Shadow, Black Hawks and Apaches), which had never been done before on either side of the mountain. The teaming of these three air assets is common to see in an operational environment, but difficult to coordinate and implement in a training scenario.

Range Control hopes to increase its ability to provide safe, efficient realistic training grounds, while 2-6th CAV and the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade look to challenge its Soldiers to be better prepared for whatever fight comes their way.

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Category: News, Training, U.S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa (USAG-Pohakuloa)

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