Monday, June 25, 2007

Aviation Battalion Reaches 20,000 Flight Hours

21 Jun 07
By Sgt. 1st Class Rick Emert
1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Unmanned aerial vehicle teams from 1st Air Cavalry Brigade (ACB) have amassed 20,000 flight hours in the skies over Baghdad.

The crews, assigned or attached to the 615th Aviation Support Battalion (ASB) “Cold Steel,” 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division, surpassed the deployment total of the unit that previously had the mission in Multinational Division-Baghdad, according to Capt. Joshua Chase, executive officer for Company E, 615th ASB – the unit that conducts the UAV mission for MND-B.

Soldiers from Co. E’s headquarters section track the flight hours and perform administrative duties for attached aerial vehicle operators. The unit has had only five accidents in 20,000 flight hours that resulted in total loss of a UAV, compared to 14 for the previous unit in about 16,000 flight hours, Chase said.

In all five cases, the accidents were caused by mechanical failure in which the vehicles had reached the expected end of their use cycle, said Staff Sgt. Jaime Gomez, Production Control noncommissioned officer in charge for Co. E and a native of El Paso, Texas.

“We pride ourselves on our safety record,” Gomez said. “On the maintenance side, if we fail, that reflects on our section.”

“The success rate as far as safety is the biggest compliment to how we do business,” Chase said. “We are rewriting the book as far as how this system should operate.”

The maintenance crew keeps the UAVs fit to fly – and also has been successful in keeping them in the air.

The Production Control section conducts scheduled maintenance on the UAVs at different levels of flight hours including external inspections at 12 and 24 hours and replacing the engine at 236 hours, according to Gomez.

“I think that since we have aviation experience that comes into play,” Gomez said. “It helps a lot that we are skillful in a lot of what we have to work around to ensure that the (UAVs) don’t have a lot of down time.”

The operators keep up a steady pace of launching and recovering the UAVs and performing pre- and post flight checks, said Sgt. Joshua Chambers, an air vehicle operator from 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, who calls Tucson, Ariz., home.

“You’ve got to continue to improve or you’re not doing your part,” Chambers said. “We have shown that we are progressing. I think we’ve raised the measuring stick for the unit that follows us.”

While they have reached an impressive milestone, the Soldiers from Co. E aren’t focusing too much on what they have accomplished in the past, but instead on the mission in front of them.

“It’s amazing, but I didn’t really think much about how many hours we had flown,” said Sgt. Jon Rodningen, a maintainer from 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and native of Omaha, Neb. “I just try to take care of the birds that are flying today.”

Photo - U.S. Army Sgt. Jon Rodningen, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) maintainer for Company E, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, conducts a preflight inspection of a UAV, June 18, 2007, at Taji, Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rick Emert.

Source: Defend America.

Boy, I'll tell ya. If these guys ever stop being competitive, I think it shall be my duty to drop dead! lol. What is the competiton? You'll just have to read the article to find out! Needless to say, these guys are awesome.

Originally posted @ DoD Daily News-2.

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