Virginia Guard aviators haul troops & hoist gear during annual training

The crew aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the Sandston-based Detachment 2, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment conducts water bucket training June 14, 2013, in Blackstone, Va. The water buckets are used to assist with fire-fighting efforts. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The crew aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from the Sandston-based Detachment 2, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment conducts water bucket training June 14, 2013, in Blackstone, Va. The water buckets are used to assist with fire-fighting efforts. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

SANDSTON, Va. — Virginia Guard Soldiers assigned to the commonwealth’s aviation units stayed busy during their two-week annual training, held June 1-15, 2013 at both Fort A.P. Hill and the Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston, Va. Aviators took to the sky to conduct a variety of missions and training exercises while service and support Soldiers provided hot meals two times a day, kept the aircraft fueled with a Forward Arming and Refueling Point and accomplished a wide range of training objectives.

“The goals for AT were to improve individual and crew [military occupational specialty] proficiency, conduct aircrew readiness level progression, complete door gunnery qualification and integrate training with other Virginia Guard units through aviation support,” said Maj. Kevin Warfield, commander of the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment.

During the first week of annual training, Soldiers of the 2-224th focused on individual training, completing combat life saver certification, individual and crew served weapons qualifications and driver’s training. It was the first battalion-wide annual training conducted by the unit since their deployment to Iraq in 2011.

Soldiers from Company E worked hard to keep Soldiers fueled and fed during AT, with the cooks producing two meals a day, lunch and dinner, and feeding approximately 300 Soldiers at each meal.

“We’re really busy now. We’re working nonstop,” said Sgt. Vincent Carter, Company E’s first cook. “But we did it because we like it and the cooks always give it their best.”

Also from Company E, fuelers established a FARP at Fort A.P. Hill, allowing the air crews to obtain hot fuel while conducting training, such as aerial door gunnery, on the nearby ranges.

Soldiers from Company E, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment provide fuel for a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at the unit’s Forward Arming and Refueling Point at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., June 11, 2013. The FARP allows aviation elements to refuel quickly and tactically and then move on to accomplish their missions. The Soldiers are conducting annual training June 1-15 at Fort A.P. Hill, as well as at the Army Aviation Facility in Sandston, Va. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Soldiers from Company E, 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment provide fuel for a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter at the unit’s Forward Arming and Refueling Point at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., June 11, 2013. The FARP allows aviation elements to refuel quickly and tactically and then move on to accomplish their missions. The Soldiers are conducting annual training June 1-15 at Fort A.P. Hill, as well as at the Army Aviation Facility in Sandston, Va. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Air crews also repeatedly provided air support to the Soldiers of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during their annual training at Fort Pickett. Along with assisting with troop movement and air assault missions, the 2-224th also assisted 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery, 116th IBCT with the movement of their M119A2 howitzers.

“The AT was very successful,” Warfield said. “The units and Soldiers exceeded my expectations, considering this was the first AT following the 2011 deployment.”

The newest aviation asset in Virginia is the still-forming Detachment 2, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, a medical evacuation unit based out of Sandston. The unit began drilling together in March and spent this AT conducting readiness level progression. Once fully formed and staffed, the unit will have a total of three aircraft, all UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, with four full crews consisting of two pilots, one medic, and a crew chief each.

“As we begin to build the MEDEVAC unit we are planning and training for two separate missions,” explained 1st lt. J. Erin Jones, commander of the detachment. “The first is the military MEDEVAC mission of supporting wounded troops in combat, and the other is the stateside mission of supporting [defense support to civil authorities], which will require us to train and work closely with civilian agencies throughout the state.”

Along with conducting familiarization training with a thermal imaging system, called FLIR for forward-facing infrared, the aviators also worked toward qualifying the unit’s air crews on water bucket operations and can now boast three fully qualified flight crews for water bucket operations, according to Jones. The helicopter buckets enable the aviators to join the fight against wildfires and air crews with the Colorado National Guard have employed the buckets to fight the fires plaguing their state.

“The AT went really well considering we have only been drilling since March,” Jones said. “The Soldiers that are currently in the unit are very hard working and excited about the MEDEVAC mission, which contributed greatly to a successful AT.”

On the final day of annual training, June 15, 2013, Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, joined the Soldiers and their families for family day at the AASF in Sandston. Grass recognized several Soldiers for outstanding duty performance during AT with his personal challenge coin.

Crew chiefs from 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment conduct aerial door gunnery qualification June 11, 2013, at Fort A.P. Hill from their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The training was conducted during their annual training, held June 1-15. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Crew chiefs from 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment conduct aerial door gunnery qualification June 11, 2013, at Fort A.P. Hill from their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The training was conducted during their annual training, held June 1-15. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

More on the web:

Photos: Aviation Soldiers train on thermal imaging system — June 5, 2013

Photos: Combat Lifesaver Course trains Soldiers to save lives — June 6, 2013

Photos: Va. Guard senior leaders visit Soldiers of the 2-224th — June 11, 2013

Photos: Fuelers keep aviation missions flying — June 11, 2013

Photos: 2-224th conducts aerial door gunnery qualification — June 11, 2013

Photos: 1-111th Field Artillery Soldiers train with 2-224th Aviation Soldiers to slingload, transport M119A2 Howitzers across the battlefield — June 14, 2013

Photos: Va. Guard aviators train for wildfire fighting – June 14, 2013

Photos: NGB Chief visits family day for aviation units — June 15, 2013