CAB PAO, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Since the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago, the CH-47 Chinook Cargo helicopter has provided troops on the ground with vital supplies necessary for the sustainment of combat operations all over the world.
On today’s battlefield, the aviation logistics mission hasn’t changed; however, with the integration of the newest version of the dependable aircraft, the CH-47F Chinook Improved Cargo helicopter, missions are being successfully completed faster and more efficiently than ever before.
Upon deploying from Fort Hood, Texas, approximately two months ago, the Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, became the first aviation unit in the Army to bring the upgraded cargo helicopter into combat and have since reported great success as they continue to provide logistical support to ground forces operating all over Iraq.
“It’s a challenge to be the first ones out here with it (CH-47F), and we’re still learning a lot of its capabilities and still developing how we are using the aircraft,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randolph Hay, a pilot with 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, CAB, who is from Seattle.
“As far as its enhanced capabilities, it gives us great situational awareness of where we’re at and makes our jobs a lot easier. It really enhances our performance and so far it has been great,” he said.
The CH-47F is a remanufactured version of the 20-year-old D model featuring new 4,868 horsepower engines that enable the aircraft to reach speed in excess of 175 mph and reach flying altitudes up to 20,000 feet, depending on the load.
Other enhancements include a newly designed digital crew station to include a digital map, glass cockpit and enhanced communications and navigation equipment.
Despite being the primary asset for MND-B’s airspace, the CAB’s 2nd Bn., 4th Avn. Regt.’s logistical support mission isn’t limited to the greater Baghdad area of operations and, in fact, encompasses virtually the entire country.
During any given six-hour mission, it isn’t uncommon to see the Chinook crews dropping off supplies throughout the Iraq theatre of operations.
“We provide a service you can’t get anywhere else. In a heavy lift capacity, we can move more cargo, more efficiently and a lot safer than it takes to ground haul the equipment, said Spc. Josh Miller, a crew chief with Co. B, who is from San Antonio.
“There are small forward operating bases and contingency operating bases out there that need small parts, pieces and whatever we can take them, and it is our responsibility to get them what they need,” he said.
Miller, who is now on his second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, said despite the improved security situation in Iraq, his battalion continues to provide about the same amount of general aviation support that they were tasked with in 2006. The primary difference between past and present is that the current missions are easier on both the crew and pilots.
“The biggest difference with the aircraft is the avionics. Once the pilots are trained and proficient, it takes a lot of the mission planning and simplifies it,” Miller said. “Essentially, the entire aircraft has been upgraded to incorporate the newest digital systems, and because of these systems, the management of our missions is incredibly easy.”
Only time will tell of how successful the aircraft’s first taste of combat will be as the CAB continues to provide aviation logistical support to the hundreds of thousands of Soldiers and their Coalition Forces partners serving in Iraq.
“Our mission is to move people and cargo from one place to another. This encompasses the movement of Coalition troops, resupplying various forward operating bases – just about anything the Soldiers need, we will bring to them,” said Hays, during a resupply mission southeast of Baghdad.
“Our mission hasn’t changed. We are still pushing cargo to the troops on the ground, and as long as we’re here, we will continue to do so.”
By Sgt. Jason Dangel