GRAYLING, Mich. - Fifty-six Kentucky National Guard Soldiers from Bravo Co. 2/147th and two medics from Headquarters and Headquarters Company loaded five UH-60 helicopters in Frankfort, Kentucky, July 9 and headed to Michigan’s northern peninsula to conduct annual training.
Every year Soldiers from across the commonwealth form up to train and improve their military occupational specialties, or MOS.
Bravo Co. 2/147th, the state’s only air assault unit, includes four detachments: B Proper, Delta Co., Echo Co., and HHC, Headquarters and Headquarters Co.
“Aviation operates very differently than most units within the organization,” said Capt. Chris Englen, Bravo Co. 2/147th commander. “Each person relies on the person’s proficiency to their left and right to survive.
“I am not a fueler,” he said. “As a pilot, I have put the trust of my life in their hands that when I go to operate, the aircraft will not explode. There are no small jobs here. This trust takes us from being a military unit to a family.”
B Proper houses the unit’s commander, first sergeant, unit crew chiefs with a flying status, and the unit’s pilots, both commissioned and warrant officers.
UH-60 Black Hawk Repairers: 15T, known primarily as aircraft repairers, prepare and maintain the UH-60s.
Once they understand the aircraft’s inner workings, they can be put into a flying status to assist pilots in the air. They are the eyes and ears from the rear, from takeoff to landing.
They may incur an additional duty, gunnery, trained to mount, arm and fire M240H machine guns from the aircraft. It is this function that separates the unit from traditional aviation.
Delta Co. is the unit’s maintenance supporting element, comprising crew chiefs, avionic mechanics, aircraft electricians and automated logistical specialists.
This year, aviators are conducting degraded visual environment training, introducing dust and debris particles to the aircraft. These mission-specific trainings dictate the overall operation of Delta Co.
The Echo detachment is responsible for hot and cold aircraft refueling. Hot fueling is used for a fast turnover during continual operations where it is not practical to shut down completely. Cold fueling is typically conducted in the morning, ahead of the day’s missions.
The unit’s HHC detachment is run by aviation operations specialists. Sharing communication with the airfield tower, pilots and command team, HHC maintains the schedules, locations and operations of every service member’s training.
“Knowing the location of my Soldiers is what I need to remain mission-focused at all times,” said B. Co 1st Sgt. Stephen Arny. “We have a great team on these radios tracking movements, safely getting our teams on and off the airfield, and keeping everyone in the know. Without their information organization and coordination, we would be unable to operate successfully.”
This summer’s mission consisted of three pillar operational tasks: annual training requirements, multiple joint support missions with a local infantry battalion, and aerial gunnery.
All service members, regardless of MOS, must perform specific requirements annually to ensure they are mission capable at all times. Weapons qualification, height/weight standards, and a passing physical fitness score are standards every Soldier must meet.
In addition, individual units call for training relevant to their operational needs.
Pilots conduct exercises to prepare them for any environment they may face during an operation, from stateside emergency relief efforts and different training environments to deployment complexities.
“Taking off and landing in a dedicated airfield is great, but that is not the reality of our job as military aviators,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Richard Singleton, company aviation safety officer, company unit movement officer, Bravo Co. 2/147th. “We practice a variety of flight patterns, landings, takeoffs, day/night conditions, and environmental variances. One of the exercises we prioritize during AT is DVE or degraded visual environment training.”
DVE is a technique pilots practice for landing in dust, sand and snow.
“I am one of the newest pilots in the unit,” said Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Brumfield, Bravo Co. 2/147th. “Like most military schools, we are taught how to operate, but the specialty training doesn’t start till you are back with your home station. During this annual training, I have had the opportunity to expand my skills and confidence.”
Aviators in the Kentucky National Guard require 96 annual flight hours to maintain their ability to fly.
As Citizen-Soldiers, maintaining this requirement presents its own sets of challenges. One way to work in this crucial training is through joint support missions.
Kentucky aviators get ample time behind the controls while building relationships with units around the country. Bravo Co. 2/147 supported the 3/126 Infantry Battalion from the Michigan National Guard for a series of missions and joint operations this year.
“I wanted to fly in a helicopter since I was a kid,” said Pvt. Thomas Darga, Delta Co. 3-126 Infantry Regiment. “As an infantryman, it’s not something I ever thought I would do. I sent a photo to my son, and he asked if he could come to work with me next time. As a new Soldier and a dad, it is hard to say how that feels.”
Over 10 days at Camp Grayling in Michigan, the Kentucky unit supported the Michigan infantryman on missions varying from 72 passengers, troop movements, infilling and exfilling scouts and sling-loading.
“Our two units stayed extremely busy while we had several different operations going on all around Camp Grayling,” said Lt. Corey Oney, a platoon leader with B. Co. 2/147th and the unit’s infantry liaison for this year’s annual training.
Oney said they worked together seamlessly.
“We left Michigan with great contacts for possible future training and great friends to see down the road,” he said.
Aerial gunnery was one of the unit’s broadest missions for this year’s annual training schedule. Once Soldiers had time to ask questions and practice the M240H machine gun functions, they proceeded to the range for ground fire.
Using a crawl, walk, run approach, unit members shot the weapon dismounted from a prone position on the ground outside the aircraft. They then fired a 100-round belt inside a grounded Black Hawk from the crew chief position.
Teams of four to five crew members also shot 400-round belts at nine targets while flying across the Grayling Range, then conducted the same sequence at night.