• December 28, 2014

Aviation soldiers making a difference in Afghanistan

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Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 4:30 am

Soldiers of “Attack” Battalion are making a difference in Afghanistan, said Lt. Col. Cain Baker, commander of 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

“Words cannot explain what they are doing and they see it. They truly see their impact on the mission,” he said from his headquarters with Combined Joint Task Force Thunder in Mazar-e-Sharif in Regional Command North.

About 300 soldiers from the Attack Battalion — an Apache helicopter unit — left Fort Hood in January to provide air support for the ground commander and coalition forces in the northern part of the country. Aside from Apaches, the unit also is providing Black Hawks and medevac aircraft.

It’s a unique situation to work with the 17 countries in the region, which is commanded by a German headquarters, Baker said. Going to meetings, it’s amazing to see all the different officers at the table.

“We’ve learned so much more about how to do things from a different perspective,” he said. “It has been a broadening experience for everyone.”

The most important thing for the Afghans to see, is how much the local Afghan National Security Forces are stepping up and taking charge, Baker added.

In the last 45 days, several natural disasters have hit the northern region of Afghanistan, such as severe flooding. Attack soldiers flew water into the area, but the Afghans took the lead in distribution.

“It’s truly Afghanistan in the lead providing their own aid to their people. We just helped facilitate a little bit of movement,” Baker said.

“It’s critical with everything we do the Afghans are in the lead. It shows how far this country has come.”

Effective training before deployment is the key to the battalion’s current success, Baker said. He credited his brigade and division for the resources and training available.

“There are young privates in this formation that will grow to be command sergeant majors and they will take the lessons they learned on how to train a unit and how to deploy it ... and they will use it for the rest of their careers,” he said. “It’s unbelievable to see the smiles on faces as soldiers do the job they trained to do.”

The high morale shows in the “skyrocketed” re-enlistment rate of soldiers, along with the excited participation in the various events created to give soldiers down time such as the Commander’s Cup competition and the Warrior of the Week award.

Support from families back home also contributed to the morale of soldiers.

“It’s humbling to outreach from families,” Baker said. “That is probably the most important thing for a soldier is for family and friends to support them.”

The battalion is about halfway through its nine-month deployment and is expected to return to Fort Hood later this year.

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