Photo by Hiro Chang
Members of the 2-211th Aviation train at Fort Sill,
during a recent mission-readiness exercise.
FORT SILL, Okla. —
National Guard units from Utah and New Jersey were given
the opportunity to adapt and overcome major obstacles
for their deployment training.
exercises were designed specifically to simulate their
specific mission of escorting VIPs throughout Kuwait and
based in Kuwait, but our helicopter missions will cover
southern Iraq, and the fixed-wing will go all over the
Middle East," said Maj. Peter Adams, executive officer for
Task Force 2nd Battalion, 211th Aviation, or Task Force
Ghost Rider as they are more affectionately known.
battalion had to be augmented by the New Jersey Guardsmen
specifically for this mission.
forces have names, and we had a little competition to come
up with the best task force name. We developed a united
patch to promote espirit de corps," Adams said.
Adams also said the name would let the Soldiers know that there
was no specific unit separation; they are all Ghost Riders.
the moniker, there have been setbacks, albeit minor ones.
it was a little difficult; they were a little shy," Pfc.
Andrew Hernandez, of Salt Lake City, said.
to Hernandez, the units first met in Utah for pre-deployment
the pilots seemed shy to me, and they're pilots, so they are
mostly officers who won't talk to a low rank like me,"
noted that, since then, the pilots have warmed up to his
section, air traffic, even calling each other by nicknames
or call signs, a military pilot tradition.
Photo by Hiro Chang
Sgt. Simon Debran, 2-211th Aviation, attempts to
suppress fire to secure
a landing zone during a grueling evasion-training
mission at Fort Sill.
don't really have one yet," laughed Hernandez.
"We made it
perfectly clear from the beginning that this will not be one
of those 'them and us' relationships," Adams said.
major obstacle the unit had to negotiate was a
mission-readiness exercise, MRX, which encompassed their
mission in Kuwait.
purpose of this exercise was to rehearse a lot of drills,"
drills consisted of air evacuation, tactically avoiding
engagements and emergency operations.
focused on throwing off the unit by making subtle but
important changes to the unit's already-tight flight
schedule, which caused them to work longer and harder.
this MRX] they are probably cramming a month's worth of
missions into a week just to put more pressure and stress on
us," Adams said.
simulated that we were in Kuwait, and they threw anything
they could at us," agreed Hernandez.
VIPs is challenging enough to schedule, let alone fly, in
the dangerous skies that make up the war zones of Kuwait and
deviation will throw the operation out of order, said
Hernandez, who maintains communications and tracks flights
for the pilots in the air.
important," Hernandez said. "We are providing service for
that VIP, or personnel or cargo which means someone else is
depending on us."