1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment Trains At Muscatatuck

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By Brandon Knapp, Atterbury-Muscatatuck Public Affairs

BUTLERVILLE, Ind. – The heavy sound of rotor blades fills the air as a Black Hawk helicopter touches down, the force of the rotor wash blowing dust and bending grass as Soldiers rush to it.

This is not a scene from a movie, but a daily activity for the 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, Ohio National Guard. The 1-137th is conducting two weeks of annual training at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville, Ind. The training exercises focus on both peacetime and combat missions.

Pvt. Robert Dennison, Company D, 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, Ohio National Guard, Columbus, Ohio, repairs a fastener on a UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter panel at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville, Ind.
Pvt. Robert Dennison, Company D, 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, Ohio National Guard, Columbus, Ohio, repairs a fastener on a UH60 Black Hawk helicopter panel at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville, Ind.

Capt. Tommy Morrison, 1-137th Aviation Regiment operations officer, commented on the unit’s upcoming training activities. “Our training here is cumulative for both wartime missions and domestic operations stateside. We perform fire suppression within the state of Ohio as well as flood relief, and have participated in relief efforts for hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav. Combat missions can vary from moving supplies or troops, to working with the infantry in an air assault role.”

The goal, said Morrison, is to “challenge everyone, whether it is on the groundside with running convoys and being able to react to IEDS, sniper fire, etcetera, to controlling the air assets we have in the air operations center.”

A utility trailer is prepped and waiting for sling load operations training at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville, Ind. The 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, Ohio National Guard, is conducting their annual two week training at Muscatatuck.
A utility trailer is prepped and waiting for sling load operations training at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville, Ind., June 5. The 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, Ohio National Guard, is conducting their annual twoweek training at Muscatatuck.

The 1-137th is conducting a variety of aviation missions, including sling load operations, where a helicopter is used to lift and move pieces of equipment from one location to another, and fire suppression. To fight fires, a special bucket is attached to the bottom of the helicopter by a rope. The helicopter then flies with the bucket to a body of water, such as a pond or lake, lowers into the water to fill it and then flies to the scene of the fire. Once on scene, the helicopter hovers over the fire, where the helicopter crew controlling the bucket releases the water, dumping it on the fire and putting it out.

All of this flying would not be possible without Soldiers to keep the aircraft up and running. Helicopters require daily maintenance and inspections to fly, and this requires hard work. Along with the maintenance, crew chiefs must also fly with the aircraft on missions. This requires extra training on their part as well.

According to Staff Sgt. Christopher Dethridge, Company A, 1-137th Aviation Regiment, “Our mission is to maintain the aircraft through daily inspections and maintenance. We have inspections we complete every day, as well as maintenance that is required as necessary. On top of maintenance, crew chiefs also require training in basic flight knowledge because we fly in the aircraft on missions. We have instructors who teach us and certify us to maintain our flight status.”

Spc. Joshua Gruenbaum, Company E, 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, Ohio National Guard, Gahanna, Ohio, refuels a UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville, Ind.
Spc. Joshua Gruenbaum, Company E, 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, Ohio National Guard, Gahanna, Ohio, refuels a UH60 Black Hawk helicopter at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville, Ind.

A big challenge for the 1-137th was moving an entire unit to another state and starting from scratch to run the unit, and conduct full-time operations upon arrival, said Morrison. “You are constantly improving your fighting position while trying to get into the run stage. You kind of miss that crawl and walk stage because you are trying to maximize your time.”

The training advantages of Muscatatuck also play a large part in the overall success of training for Soldiers with the 1-137th. Morrison commented on some of the advantages unique to Muscatatuck. “This training area adds realism. There are cars, urban areas etcetera. It really challenges the aviators. The buildings are real buildings, and not wood structures meant to simulate a building. The installation is small and we can fly in and around the different areas. Here you can do rooftop landings or hover over a flooded town. It’s really a one of a kind area.”

A UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter of the 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, Ohio National Guard, flies over the trees at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville, Ind.
A UH60 Black Hawk helicopter of the 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, Ohio National Guard, flies over the trees at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville, Ind.

A unique aspect of the current training is the smaller confines in which the aircraft are required to operate. The landing zones are smaller than what are normally used in training. The forward area refueling point for the 1-137th is located on a soccer field surrounded by walls. The aircraft must fly into the field two at a time, single file and land to be refueled.

In training, aircraft often operate in large areas with plenty of space. The smaller area requires the pilots to be aware of their surroundings and makes them more focused, according to Morrison.

The variety of training available, from air assault to fire suppression, is a valuable tool for both the state of Indiana, and other states that choose to train at Muscatatuck. It is this outstanding training that will continue to forge Muscatatuck into the future as a premier training facility for our valued customers.

A UH 60 Black Hawk helicopter carries a fire suppression water bucket in annual training at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville Ind. The training focuses on tasks such as sling loading equipment, aerial firefighting and field maintenance of aircraft.
A UH60 Black Hawk helicopter carries a fire suppression water bucket during training at Muscatatuck, near Butlerville Ind., June 7. The 1st Battalion, 137th Aviation Regiment, Ohio National Guard, is conducting their annual two-week training at Muscatatuck. The training focuses on tasks such as sling loading equipment, aerial firefighting and field maintenance of aircraft.

By Brandon Knapp, Atterbury-Muscatatuck Public Affairs