• July 30, 2014

1st Air Cav crew chiefs: Turning wrenches to keep aircraft spinning

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Posted: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 4:30 am

He thought his buddy had just slipped and fallen, but when he got up, the blood began to flow. That’s when he knew this wouldn’t be an ordinary flight.

For Sgt. Matthew Arambula, a routine equipment drop in 2010 to Forward Operating Base Able Main, Afghanistan, will forever be etched in his memory.

This was one of his very first flights. As a crew chief, it’s a hazard that comes with the territory, he said.

“Upon unloading the equipment, we started taking fire,” Arambula said. “One of the crew members on the other side of the aircraft was hit. Our routine mission that day ended up turning into a casualty evacuation to save our wounded battle buddy.”

Arambula, a Black Hawk helicopter repairer with Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, is a crew chief who keeps aircraft fit to fly before, during and after flight.

Arambula initially only performed maintenance on aircraft for the first three years of his career. During his deployment to Afghanistan, he was moved to a flight company and given his first chance to perform his duties at more than 4,000 feet in the air.

But not without hesitation.

“I’m afraid of heights,” Arambula said. “When my first flight company took me in the air, I knew right then that I’d be good. When I’m flying in an aircraft, I’m not scared at all.”

Now a veteran crew chief, Arambula hopes to progress by being trained as a company flight instructor, much like fellow Spearhead crew chief Staff Sgt. Joel Redman did before him.

Redman, the battalion standardization instructor with Headquarters and Headquarter Company, began his career as a Black Hawk helicopter repairer in 2003, and was sent to Charlie Company when it stood up in August 2006.

Between deploying twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan within six years with the battalion, Redman was sent to Fort Rucker, Ala., to attend the Black Hawk Aircraft Crewmember Standardization Instructor course.

Since August, he has managed the battalion’s air crew training program.

“I manage the crew chief flight aspect for the commander,” Redman said. “I ensure crew chiefs receive the proper training and annual evaluations required of them, and I help facilitate the flight schedule. I train a lot of new crew chiefs and give them their check ride.”

With these duties and responsibilities come many challenges, he said. “Time management becomes paramount. You have to fit in time for physical training and studying on your own to ensure you maintain a certain academic knowledge of maintaining, regulations, flight rules, tactical aircraft systems, aeromedical knowledge, and how to utilize the M-240H machine gun as a door gunner.”

Faced with these daily challenges, Redman no longer turns wrenches on a day-to-day basis like he did in the beginning of his military career.

Despite this, he keeps with him the sense of pride he’s had all along as a crew chief, he said.

“I remember the first phase I did for 30 days in Korea as a crew chief,” Redman said. “I had such a strong sense of accomplishment when I sat on a grassy field and watched the bird I had been taking apart for the past month take off. That’s something I’ll never forget.”

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