A row of helicopters are parked along a runway June 11 during a training exercise at McGregor Range, N.M. The helicopters are maintained and fueled by the 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, during the monthlong exercise.

Courtesy photo

MCGREGOR RANGE, N.M. — About 170 service members from the 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Air Cavalry Division, participated in a monthlong training event in June.

The battalion provides fuel, ground maintenance, aviation maintenance, signal support and medical support to the aviation task force conducting high elevation training.

“We are supporting our aviation task force, which is comprised of Apaches, Black Hawks and Chinooks, as we prepare for elements of our brigade to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” said Lt. Col. Shawn B. Czehowski, battalion commander.

Each of the battalion’s companies has its own particular role in the mission. The headquarters company consists of the staff and the ground maintenance personnel.

“(This exercise) allows us to get the battalion (tactical operation center) training for our individuals and staff members, from our junior soldiers to the battalion commander, so that we can properly train to support ... our aviation brothers and sisters,” Czehowski said.

Alpha Company is responsible for fuel, water, ammunition and ground transportation. At the forward area refueling points, Alpha bustles with action as the helicopters fly in to fuel up and immediately fly out, a process called hot fueling.

“We are getting more training on fueling up the birds,” said Pfc. Alexander Hardister, a water treatment specialist with the company. “Back at Fort Hood, I have done the hot point twice and I didn’t have that much training on actually fueling up the birds. Out here being able to hook up and actually be able to do jump FARP, that’s been the highlight.”

While many of the soldiers are trained as petroleum supply specialists, those like Hardister are learning and refining a new skill during the exercise with the help of the company’s noncommissioned officers.

“Right now, I’m just observing,” said Sgt. Andrew Ramos, a petroleum supply specialist. “They’re learning their jobs; they’re getting more and more hands on training than what they would back in the rear. You see them grow in front of you, it’s kind of fun.”

Maintenance of any equipment is important, but especially so for helicopters. Bravo Company keeps all the aircraft in top running condition, from spray painting the blades to protect them from debris and scheduled maintenance to emergency repairs.

“One of the big things out here is the realistic training, that’s what we’re here for,” said Staff Sgt. James Gurak, an aircraft powerplant repairer with Bravo Company. “The sections are cross training with each other, learning to do each other’s jobs.”

Cross training and learning new jobs is important to the unit while they get ready to deploy, but some soldiers are learning other important skills.

“Sleep is the key to everything around here,” said Pfc. Anthony Jackson, one of the Bravo’s aircraft powerplant repairer. “You get down a good sleep schedule and a good (physical training) schedule. Make sure you’re well rested before coming into work because you never know when you need to get work done.”

Charlie Company is much smaller than the other three but its function is just as important — communication.

Charlie Company’s 1st Sgt. Jose Gomez, said it is the mission of his company to keep each of the sections communicating together as well as ensuring the battalion operations center can talk to outside entities.

“We have our satellite transportable terminals operational along with our command post nodes that provide communications,” Czehowski said.

Each company has their own tasks allowing the operations of the helicopter task forces to continue, but the combined efforts ensures mission success.

“Having deployed multiple times, the high altitude terrain stresses the human body,” Czehowski said. “The sand mimics the deserts that we go to. The high altitude environments mimics Afghanistan in a lot of ways. It not only stresses our soldiers physically and mentally, it stresses our communication systems. It forces you to execute things that you don’t normally do in a home-station environment.”

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