National Capital Region Servicemembers go airborne

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Torey Griffith
  • 11th Wing Public Affairs
The twin rotors of a Maryland Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter chopped the hazy, humid July air, blowing dust and grass into the faces of Airmen and Soldiers as they ran out to meet the giant craft, leaning into the tremendous rotor wash that earned the helicopter the nickname, "Big Wind."

Members of the 11th Security Forces Squadron and the 89th Communications Squadron from Joint Base Andrews, Md., 579th Medical Group from Joint Base Annicostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., and 55th Signal Company from Fort Meade, Md. joined forces to train for airborne operations with CH-60 Black Hawks and CH-47 Chinooks.

"Most servicemembers aren't familiar with the sensory overload that comes with working with aircraft," said Lt. Col. Kjäll Gopaul, director of Joint and Air Staff Liaison at the LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education at the Pentagon. "Their first encounter with the sounds sights and feelings associated with airborne operations shouldn't be when they're in Iraq, Afghanistan or the Horn of Africa. We want them to be able to focus on their key task in that situation instead of being distracted by the newness of working around aircraft."

The training included getting in, buckling up, and getting out of a static CH-60 Black Hawk provided by the U.S. Army 12th Aviation Battalion at Fort Belvoir, Va., as well as boarding, flying in and exiting a CH-47 Chinook at a different location where the Defenders and Combat Camera servicemembers transitioned into simulated combat operations at the landing zone.

"More and more, the Air Force is taking on some of those roles in which we might take a squad, move them out by helicopter and drop them in a forward area," Said Master Sgt. Eric Marsh, 11th SFS NCO in charge of training. "It is important for our troops to know how to deploy onto and off of these airframes before they are in a combat situation."

The training also afforded servicemembers to chance to learn the language of the operators, take direction from the flight engineer and work with members of their sister services.

"This is a great way to practice joint training," said Marsh. "It reinforces the fact that we are one team in a deployed environment. Understanding how the each service operates and communicates allows us to pull together to meet our commander's intent."