Face of Defense: Soldier Fights Battles From Above
By Army Spc. Aaron Rosencrans
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP TAJI, Iraq, May 20, 2008 U.S. military forces dominate the battlefield with superior weaponry and disciplined talent, not only on the land and in the water, but in the air as well.
Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dennis Seymour, a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., who serves as the brigade master gunner for all aircraft and the standardization pilot for AH-64 Apache helicopters with Task Force 12, Multinational Division Baghdad, checks the fluid levels and every major component of his AH-64 Apache helicopter before a mission in Baghdad May 14, 2008. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Aaron Rosencrans, Multinational Division Baghdad
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Part of the reason for Multinational Division Baghdad’s success has been precision attacks on enemies from thousands of feet above ground in Task Force 12’s AH-64 Apache helicopters.
As the brigade master gunner for all aircraft and the standardization pilot for AH-64 Apache helicopters with Task Force 12, Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dennis Seymour, a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., brings knowledge and skill to the battlefield in support of ground operations in and around Baghdad.
Seymour first joined the military in 1980, and he spent nine years as an electrician in the Air Force. His passion for flight brought him to the Army to fly Apaches. Even with so many years in the military, Seymour said, he still plans on staying in until the Army decides it’s time for him to leave.
“I always said I would get out when I stopped having fun,” he said. Now with 27 years of service under his belt, Seymour said, he has no plans on going anywhere until after he reaches the rank of chief warrant officer 5.
Seymour’s skills have not gone unnoticed by his commander, who has flown with him in the majority of his missions this tour in Iraq.
“Seymour is an absolute expert when it comes to flying and fighting Apache helicopters,” said Army Col. Tim Edens, a native of Fruitland, Idaho, who commands Task Force 12. As a former instructor pilot at the Fort Rucker, Ala., Apache Course, Seymour knows the ins and outs of the aircraft, he noted.
Edens added that Seymour is not just a “TRADOCian” who only knows only the basic skills taught in the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command schoolhouse. Semour has spent most of his career in tactical units, so he knows several tricks that are not yet in the training manual, which makes him a very dangerous weapon against the enemy, Edens said.
Seymour has a daily ritual before every mission that includes doing his preflight checks, putting on his yellow “Southern Miss” hat and preparing the aircraft before he even climbs into the cockpit. It’s his job to set the example for the rest of the crews, he said. To make sure everyone knows what “right” looks like, he does his checks “by the numbers.”
“I start at the front end of the helicopter, and I work my way around, checking every hatch, the fluid levels and the integrity of all the major parts even before receiving my mission briefing,” he said.
After the mission briefing, Seymour usually straps into the bird with Edens and takes off for their mission.
“Some people think it’s all excitement as an Apache pilot,” Seymour said. “Really, what ends up happening is we fly around for five hours for only three minutes of excitement. In fact, flying six or seven days per week wears you out. There’s a lot of mental strain involved with flying the helicopter and targeting bad guys on the ground.”
When it comes time for Seymour to engage enemy forces, he said, he thinks of the process as more of a video game than a real-life situation.
“The reality of it is I’m taking somebody’s life away every time I pull that trigger,” he said. “That’s a hard thing to think about. What makes it easier is the fact that every enemy I take out is one less bad guy my son has to worry about.”
Seymour’s son followed in his father’s footstep and joined the Army, as well. He serves in a psychological operations unit and is attending the Defense Language Institute, at the Presidio of Monterey, Calif.
After the mission is complete, Seymour’s job could be done for the night; but ground crew members say he provides a helping hand with post-mission checks when he can.
“He is one of those pilots who goes above and beyond with the checks and maintenance, which makes our job much easier on the ground,” said Army Cpl. Jimmy Duenas, a Guam native who serves in Multinational Division Baghdad as an Apache mechanic and crew chief with Outlaw Troop, 4th Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Task Force 12.
(Army Spc. Aaron Rosencrans serves in the Multinational Division Baghdad Public Affairs Office.)