An AH-64E Apache helicopter is towed from the landing zone to the blade fold site at the Port of Beaumont. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Hayley Haka)
AH-64 Apaches in line for blade folding. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Hayley Haka.)

Story by. 1st Lt. Hayley Haka, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade Public Affairs

FORT HOOD, Texas — Pilots and crews have been flying non-stop over the past week from Fort Hood to Beaumont, Texas in preparation for their deployment to support Atlantic Resolve. Soldiers from “Air Cav” have spent months preparing AH-64 Apache, UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters to be flown to the port then loaded onto shipping vessels.

“Port operations in an aviation unit provides a distinct opportunity for our aircraft maintainers to exercise shipment configuration techniques prior to movement,” said Maj. Brian Hewko, commander of Bravo Company, 615th Aviation Support Battalion and port operations officer-in-charge. “This differs from conventional ground force movement activities. This mission is one that only our troopers can accomplish as we rely entirely on our own tools, training and experience to prepare our aircraft for sealift or airlift.”

Cpl. Oscar Cantu, a 15R AH-64 attack helicopter repairer and blade fold team leader, said his team was efficient and effective in each step of the task due to the training they did at Fort Hood in preparation for port operations. “Our first priority here is safety,” said Cantu. “But we are gaining even more experience here that we can use at another port anywhere around the world.”

Once at the port, soldiers worked diligently to remove and reposition rotor blades, remove specialized exterior equipment, and pack aircraft interiors with the blade fold kits. Then, they moved aircraft into a dense-pack formation, staging them to be rolled on and secured to the ships.

“Recognizing how critical they are in the process of projecting combat power, this mission gives our soldiers a true sense of purpose and pride in what they do,” said Hewko. “They know only they can do it. You can feel their motivation when they work, and their satisfaction in knowing they’re a part of something strategically critical.”

“When we get to Europe,” explained 1st Lt. Bryan Buckley, a platoon leader in Alpha Co., 7-17th Air Cav. Squadron, “we will be able to improve multinational interoperability and deter any possible threats. We’ve been training on different tactics and skills and have been preparing our equipment over the last several months. We are ready to get to Europe.”

Since April 2014, U.S. Army Europe and Africa has led the Department of Defense’s Atlantic Resolve land efforts by rotating units based in the U.S. to Europe. There are four types of U.S. Army Atlantic Resolve rotations – armored, aviation, sustainment task force and division headquarters. Rotational units conduct bilateral, joint and multinational training events across more than a dozen countries. Atlantic Resolve is funded by the European Deterrence Initiative, which enables the U.S. to enhance deterrence, increase readiness and support NATO.

For media queries about Atlantic Resolve, email [email protected].

For more information about the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, please contact Capt. Taylor Criswell, Brigade Public Affairs Officer, at [email protected].

Soldiers from Bravo Co., 7-17th Air Cav. Squadron utilize a blade fold kit to raise and rotate each Apache helicopter blade to the rear of the aircraft on Oct. 18. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Hayley Haka)
Spc. Diego Camarillo, a 15R from Bravo Co., 615th Aviation Support Battalion, secures an Apache helicopter rotor blade. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Hayley Haka)
Spc. Steven Dalton, a 15R from Bravo Co., 615th Aviation Support Battalion replaces blade pins in order to allow the rotor blade to move freely. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Hayley Haka)
Soldiers from Bravo Co., 615th Aviation Support Battalion utilize a blade stand to rotate an Apache helicopter blade into the support stand on the rear of the aircraft. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Hayley Haka)