Aug. 24, 2010

Virginia-based assault helicopter battalion trains at Fort Bragg 

By Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT BRAGG, N.C. —Alongside companies from both Virginia and Maryland, the National Guard Soldiers of the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, packed their bags and their helicopters and prepared to make their way from to Fort Bragg, N.C., to conduct their three-week annual training beginning July 31 where they focused on their aviation skills as well as their basic Soldier skills.

 

Soldiers from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment conduct aerial door gunnery training Aug. 10 during their three-week annual training at Fort Bragg, N.C. The Soldiers fired M240-H machine guns from the side doors of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

More photos of the 2-224th Aviation's annual training are available on the Virginia Guard Flickr page.

The commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Neal  J. Edmonds, chose the location for the annual training based on his knowledge of the Army post’s training areas from being stationed there, and because Fort Bragg could accommodate the entire battalion of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters with a variety of training opportunities on its ranges, as well as a realistic forward operating base to house the Soldiers which created a life-like deployment experience.

“I was looking for a place where I could keep the battalion in one spot, as close as possible to a number of different types of training areas to minimize the amount of travel time between locations when I chose [Fort] Bragg,” said Edmonds. “I didn’t want to waste valuable training time traveling between training locations.”

Throughout their annual training, "the Punishers" slept and worked out of FOB Patriot, a fenced-in area with checkpoints, tents where the Soldiers slept and worked, a vehicle maintenance area, guard towers and a landing zone for helicopters. While on the FOB, the Soldiers focused on Army Warrior Tasks, which are common tasks that every Soldier is expected to remain proficient in. They include basic marksmanship, first aid, operating in a nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological contaminated area, and many other core Soldier skills.

“Our training is quite varied. You can pick a topic and we’re probably training it out here,” Edmonds noted. “The aviation and Soldier skills 'the Punishers' learn here also carry over to our traditional Guard role. These are the same skills we need to be proficient in to perform our Defense Support of Civil Authorities (disaster relief) missions as well.”

 

Soldiers of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment conduct maintenance on UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters Aug. 11 on a flight line at Fort Bragg, N.C. The Soldiers are at Fort Bragg conducting a three-week annual training period. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

More photos of the 2-224th Aviation's annual training are available on the Virginia Guard Flickr page.

While the aviation maintenance and forward support companies were honing their warrior skills, the flight crews were developing their specific skill sets in the aircraft by training on day and night vision goggle-assisted flight operations, conducting aerial door gunnery, sling load operations, and environmental (dust) landings.

“Our primary  focus while we’re here is to conduct aviation readiness level progression for our aviation crews, so we can ensure that our new air crews are trained on their base tasks for future operations,” said Capt. Steven Jones, assistant operations officer of the 2-224th. “The most important aspect is to gain the necessary aviation skills for the aviators and crew chiefs to perform our basic missions. That is, flying in formation, shooting from a flying aircraft, and landing in a dusty environments since most deployments are going into desert environments.”

“Our goal is to maximize the number of aircrews we can launch at a given time,” added Jones. “We need as many mission ready aircraft and crews available in order to effectively and efficiently execute our air assault mission as well as our state mission of disaster relief.”

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