Oct. 31, 2010

Virginia aviation battalion prepares for upcoming deployment 

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

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. — Guard Soldiers from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment conducted their Aviation Training Exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. Oct 13-22 as part of the validation process for their scheduled active service for duty in Iraq this February where they will fall under command and control of a combat aviation brigade.

 

Pilots from the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment train in simulators during the battalion's Aviation Training Exercise Oct. 21 at Fort Indiantown Gap. The Soldiers are training in preparation for an upcoming mobilization to Iraq. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The approximately 54 Soldiers from the battalion staff and company headquarters elements were evaluated on their mission planning processes and battle drills day and night during 24-hour operations throughout the exercise, according to battalion commander Lt. Col. Neal Edmonds.

“We are fine tuning our communications up to the brigade level, and down to our subordinate companies, which may have their command posts located far from our [tactical operations centers] when we are overseas,”  said Edmonds.

During the exercise, pilots from the flight companies flew missions in Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainers, high-tech UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter simulators, around a realistic battlefield modeled after the landscape and geography of Iraq. While in flight the pilots faced real world scenarios such as being shot down by enemy fire, emergency landings and mechanical failures. Back in the TOC the Soldiers in the staff sections would have to respond accordingly to the events taking place in the simulator by performing their necessary battle drills.

 

The staff of the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment provides an update briefing to the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Neal Edmonds, during the unit's Aviation Training Exercise at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. Oct. 20. During the exercise, the Soldiers worked on improving their ability to communicate with superior and subordinate units. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“There is a steep learning curve with our newest Soldiers,” said Capt. Steven Jones, the battalion assistant operations officer. “Each day everybody gets better; we learn what works and what doesn’t work. Then we refine our processes, so when we get to the next event we are able to react to it more effectively.”

“The idea is that we work out all the kinks now, so when we get into theater we won’t have these problems.”

Approximately 400 Soldiers are scheduled to report to Fort Hood, Texas to conduct pre-deployment training for approximately one to two months before deploying overseas. Once they arrive in Iraq, they will conduct their normal missions, which include troop air assault and air movement, casualty evacuation, aerial re-supply and any other requested aviation missions.

The battalion is organized into three flight companies with a total of 30 Black Hawk helicopters along with a maintenance company, headquarters company and forward support company. Of the 400 Soldiers mobilizing, approximately 75 are from the Maryland National Guard’s Company C, and small detachments from Companies D and E, as well as the headquarters company of 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment.
               
The mobilization orders call for an active duty period not to exceed 400 days, but the Secretary of Defense can extend tours for operational needs not to exceed 24 months or 730 days.

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