July 28, 2010

Virginia Guard aviation unit supports airborne ops training

By Lt. Col. Kjäll Gopaul
LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. — As the temperature rose to record highs at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., on July 7, Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment helped paratroopers soar closer to a blazing sun on wings of silk to reach new heights of their own. In an airborne exercise that played out like a textbook Total Force success story, a team of National Guard, Reserve, and active-duty units executed a groundbreaking paradrop of personnel from a helicopter onto the sun-scorched Bowling Green Drop Zone. The ambitious event had been weeks in the making, and was flawlessly executed in just a matter of hours by the air-ground cooperative. With each pass over the drop zone, a short staccato of six streamers burst downward from the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, softly blossoming into parachutes in the aircraft’s wake, and gracefully alighting on the rolling greenway.

 

Soldiers of the 55th Signal Company (Combat Combat) take off in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the Virginia National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment for an airborne operation at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., on July 7, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Benjamin Boren)

One of the paratroopers, Spc. Derrick Tolliver, an all-wheel mechanic in the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera), described the experience of parachuting from a helicopter rather than a C-130 cargo plane. 

“I last jumped about three weeks ago out of a C-130, and it’s totally different.  On a C-130, you sit on a bench seat inside a cramped, closed aircraft, push your way to the door to jump out, and then get snapped around by the shock of the opening parachute,” Tolliver explained. “With a Black Hawk, you sit in the open doorway the whole time, with your legs just flying in the breeze and simply push yourself off the edge. And you don’t have that initial shock; instead, it’s a very smooth opening.  I think it’s better because it’s simpler.”

 

Soldiers of the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the Virginia National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment for an airborne operation at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., on July 7, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Benjamin Boren)

Providing that new perspective was a UH-60 Black Hawk aircrew from the 2-224th Aviation out of the Virginia Army National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility at Sandston. 

Maj. W. Keith Nunnally, the battalion operations officer and one of the mission’s pilots, remarked on how smoothly the exercise was executed.

“It was a typical summer day with a low breeze -- a little hot perhaps -- and the drops happened effortlessly. Training also went very well for the aircrew,” he said. “This was our first time training with these units, since we usually support jumps at Fort Bragg or the Rigger School at Fort Lee.  Since tactical jumps are normally conducted by the Air Force, you’ll find that this is not a typical task for most Army aviation units. That said, paradrops are part of our Commander’s Task List for selected members of our unit to maintain proficiency, and this exercise provided a good training opportunity for us.”

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