July 28, 2009

Virginia aviation unit completes joint exercise

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

SANDSTON, Va. — Soldiers of the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment returned to home station July 23 alongside Airmen of the 200th Weather Flight after conducting their two-week annual training at Fort McCoy, Wisc.

  2nd Bn., 224th Aviation Regiment

Blackhawk helicopters from 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment supported air assault missions during exercise Global Patriot '09 in Fort McCoy Wisconsin. The pilots flew several missions inserting and extracting Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 158th Cavalry Squadron of the Maryland National Guard. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

While in Wisconsin the Soldiers and Airmen participated in a joint exercise known as Global Patriot. According to Capt. Aaron Loy, the exercise is an Air Force-generated mission that focused a lot of attention on homeland defense training. While the battalion was at Fort McCoy, its Soldiers focused their attention toward wartime, mission-based training with the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade during the exercise.

The two weeks spent working in the joint environment was helpful to the unit from both a readiness standpoint, by giving Soldiers the opportunity to hone their individual military occupational specialties, as well as from a unit preparedness standpoint, by allowing the battalion the opportunity to rehearse the mobilization process.

“It met my commander goals and objectives for the annual training period, which included focus on individual MOS-proficiency training nested with collective unit training in a joint environment,” said Lt. Col. James Ring, battalion commander. “It also included exercising both unit preparation for a deployment, unit movement, unit arrival at an intermediate staging base and then going through a full RSOI [reception, staging, onward movement, integration].

They began their unit movement stage more than two weeks ago when they started to posture the battalion from both of its states and then began staging their personnel, equipment and aircraft for load out and transportation to Wisconsin by land and by air.

“What replicated that [RSOI] for us included both air and line haul movement of the battalion from both Virginia and Maryland,” said Ring. “It included C-5 and C-17 movement of personnel and equipment, to include load out of UH-60 aircraft from both Virginia and Maryland.”

“Then also going through upon arrival at a simulated theater location to reassemble the unit and go through mandatory briefings, environmental training, and then on to conducting the mission.”

During the exercise the Soldiers in the battalion were able to focus on their specific aviation missions as an air assault battalion. They focused on their wartime mission as well as their homeland defense and support to civil authorities missions.


Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment arrive at Richmond International Airport July 23 following annual training at Fort McCoy, Wisc. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen)

“The 2nd of the 224th is an air assault battalion, which means we are medium-lift, which is defined by a medium utility helicopter such as a UH-60,” said Ring. “Being Air Assault means we do a full spectrum of medium lift missions, to include tactical insertion, extraction of personnel and equipment in a combat environment.”

“Also we focused on other unit specific tasks such as aerial resupply, CASEVAC [casualty evacuation], and aerial command and control,” Ring said. “Basically, all of those mission essential tasks that we have as a battalion, we were able to exercise during Patriot ’09.”

“Patriot ’09 afforded us the opportunity to perform those mission essential tasks under a joint and international environment.”

During the exercise, the pilots and the crew chiefs were supporting the infantry battalions through insertion and extraction exercises, and assisting medical personnel with CASEVAC operations. Meanwhile, the flight companies were also being supported internally by their maintenance company, their headquarters company, as well as their forward support company.

 “While it’s easy to look at an air assault battalion and focus simply on our 30 UH-60 helicopters,” said Ring, “the reality is that for those helicopters and aircrews to go out and conduct their mission takes a substantial support group behind that.”

The forward support company provided the majority of the planning and coordination of their movement, which included the staging of their containers, the staging of their vehicles and aircraft, according to Ring. They also coordinated the ground movement of equipment

“They basically, feed the battalion, fuel the battalion and they resupply the battalion as far as movement,” he said. “So it’s a critical function of the battalion.”

Company D of the battalion provided maintenance to the air crews while the headquarters company provided the battalion staff. The staff exercised the commander’s command and control while providing communications as well as administrative support.

“The training value at the company level was outstanding,” said Maj. Keith Nunnally, battalion operations officer. “All in all, it was a great experience for most of the Soldiers involved. Anytime they can get training in their MOS, it’s a positive experience.”

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