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126th Aviation Reg. flies winter skies of western New York

By Tech. Sgt. Ryan Campbell | 107th Attack Wing, New York Air National Guard | Jan. 15, 2019

YOUNGSTOWN, N.Y. – Two CH-47 Chinook aircrews of the New York Army National Guard from Rochester gave a lift to troopers from a Buffalo-based cavalry squadron during cold-weather training at the National Guard training site in Youngstown, New York, on Jan. 12.

The helicopters assigned to Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment, flew in for infiltration and exfiltration exercises with Charlie Troop, 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment. It is a chance for both units to perfect skills ahead of larger-scale training in the future.

"The main reason for the training was to support C Troop Soldiers on air assault operations in preparation for annual training," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Aaron Taylor, a pilot assigned to the 126th. "The mission was a success, fire teams got several rotations of exfil, and that led directly into their situational training exercise lanes."

For aviation units such as the 126th, there is great value in working with the wide variety of units of the Army, and the military as a whole. Each type of unit will have specific uses for aviation that pilots like Taylor need to be ready for.

"Each unit carries a different objective to the table," Taylor said. "Whether it is dropping infantry and scouts into forward areas, sling loading an M777 howitzer and their crews to their fire bases, or transporting support personnel around the battlefield."

With C Troop, one of their objectives was to take advantage of the western New York weather to conduct cold weather training. With temperatures approaching single digits, there is a bitter chill on land and air.

"Today we are conducting cold weather training and getting to practice aerial reconnaissance," said Sgt. Joshua Aponte, an assistant team leader assigned to C Troop. "It’s the first time we’ve been able to do it in the winter which is phenomenal for our job because we usually never get to come out to the field when there’s snow."

The weather conditions also posed their own unique challenges to the pilots and crew of the Chinooks. With their expertise though, they are able to cope with the worst of it.

"One condition encountered during the mission was whiteout conditions in the landing zone," said Taylor. "It makes the pilots rely on cockpit instruments to land instead of visually looking outside."

No matter the conditions, aviation has become an important asset to operations worldwide and is in high demand. It can therefore be difficult for units like the cavalry to get time with them, however there is a goal to expand the training relationship between the two units./p>

It isn't very often that we get to train with Chinooks, said Aponte. Commanders had said that will change and already this early in the year we are flying, said Aponte.

Getting unique training like this has been monumental to Soldiers of C Troop. It gives them confidence that though they are Citizen-Soldiers, they are still developing into the best infantrymen possible.

"It means everything to me," said Aponte. "Especially being National Guard where people don’t think you get to do this type of training."

With this being a new experience for some, the pilots and crew chiefs from the 126th ensured that the Soldiers had the knowledge they needed to be successful in aerial operations. Many were flying for the first time, but quickly got the hang of it.

"They were extremely informative," said Aponte. "As soon as we were able to talk to them they asked who had never flown before and told them exactly what they were going to do and went into great detail about emergencies, so when you went on there you had a warm and fuzzy even if it was your first time."

Before the day ended, it had already fulfilled many hopes for the troopers for what they would get out of their military career. Leaders like Aponte can see the affect it has on the younger Solders underneath him.

"They loved it, one of my newer guys said this was one of his goals when he joined the Army," said Aponte. "It makes you want to come to drill, we have a guy whose contract is about to end and he said he might reenlist because of this." 

For Taylor and the rest of the 126th supporting C Troop, the day of training increases their experience as a crew and as a unit overall. It is also a chance to train with old friends.

"It’s good to train with the squadron I originate from," said Taylor. "Seeing it as a non-commissioned officer, and now as a pilot allowed me to help improve my old comrades to stay ready for the fight."