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The soldiers of 1st Battalion, 4th Aviation continue to train in preparation for future deployments as the pilots and crew members completed their table 7 and table 8 day and night firing qualifications in AH-64 Apache helicopters firing at Crittenberger multi-use range. U.S. Army photo by Spc. C. Terrell Turner
Soldiers Train for Future Deployment and Fight
By U.S. Army Spc. C. Terrell Turner / 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs

FORT HOOD, Texas, March 9, 2005 – The soldiers of 1st Battalion, 4th Aviation continue to train in preparation for future deployments as the pilots and crew members completed their table 7 and table 8 day and night firing qualifications in AH-64 Apache helicopters firing at Crittenberger multi-use range.

The entire battalion set up a bivouac in order to allow all the soldiers to train in a deployed environment, which consisted of conducting operations in three different locations over a seven by four kilometer area around an airfield.

"We’ve modified the base gunnery tasks and incorporated running and diving fire that is more in line with the things we will be expected to do with the type of combat going on in Iraq."
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Rapavi

Each Apache crew, a pilot and gunner, completed day and night firing at stationary and moving targets, which were scored by civilian crews in a tower overlooking the range.

“Our overall goal is to train 22 crews,” said Lt. Col. Michael Rapavi, commander, 1st Battalion, 4th Aviation. “These qualification tables are very effective training. We’ve modified the base gunnery tasks and incorporated running and diving fire that is more in line with the things we will be expected to do with the type of combat going on in Iraq.”

Each helicopter has a dedicated crew of soldiers responsible for its maintenance and mission readiness. Noncommissioned officers serve as the supervisors and each is responsible for two crews and their helicopters.

Spc. Adam Trammel, who serves as an Apache helicopter mechanic and crew chief, said he conducts daily inspections on the helicopters and maintains them through their day-to-day use.

“We troubleshoot the helicopters with daily checks of the oil and fuel levels,” said Trammel. “We communicate with the pilots as they go through their engine warm ups using hand and arm signals.”

During inspections, Trammel looks for leaks, chaffing in wiring, burns, wear on the aircraft, and cracks on the skin of the aircraft.

Trammel was with the unit in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He said he felt that he learned quite a bit after coming to the unit straight out of advanced individual training.

“I was straight out of training before I came here,” Trammel said. “In six months, I learned what would have taken two years. It was a very up-tempo situation with a lot of unit cohesion.”

Sgt. Justin Keister, crew chief and squad leader, supervises his soldiers and is in charge of two helicopters.

“My soldiers are coming along well; we’re proud of them,” he said. “They’re all very good maintainers.

The mechanics all use standard tools to work on the helicopters. Some noncommissioned officers also have aviation footlockers with about 70 helicopter-specific tools along with the 100 or more tools in a regular toolbox.

Keister said that all the tools are used regularly and about one-half are used in day-to-day maintenance. During the exercise, all of the tools were used.

The pilots work closely with their ground crews as the crews refueled and rearmed the Apaches throughout the range exercises.

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“We fill out after action reviews in the logbook,” said 1st Lt. Clinton Speegle, Apache gunner and attack platoon leader, Company B. “We try to give the best description we can to give the mechanics the ability to fix the aircraft.”

Speegle enjoys flying the Apache and is impressed with its capabilities.

“The Apache is a phenomenal aircraft,” said Speegle. “The things it can do are amazing. It just makes flying easy.”
Speegle completed his day and night firing qualifications and felt that it really did not seem to take long at all.

“It goes by very quick,” he said. “You don’t realize how fast time flies.”

The crews conducted 10 engagements at different targets varying in range from about 500 meters to seven kilometers away.

Targets varied from heated targets to simulate vehicles that can be tracked at night, to vehicle targets on moving tracks and simulated campsite targets.

The Apache crews use their 2.75 inch rockets and 30mm chain guns to engage targets. The Hellfire missiles are not actually fired, but a simulated firing sequence is used due to their destructive power and ability to start fires on the range areas.

Capt. Robert Deissig, Scout Platoon Company A, completed his qualifications and later performed the job of tower officer-in-charge. In this position, Deissig’s mission was to run the range, coordinate communications with range control and his unit, in addition to reading the script to the crews qualifying.

“A script is just a list of what engagements they can expect and how to prepare,” said Deissig. “They changed since we’ve been back from Iraq to develop more real-life situations.”

Each crew is read a scenario preceding a live target to engage. Civilian personnel work in the tower to prepare the targets for engaging and record the number of hits and misses.

The pilots continue to learn more and more about the Apaches as the mobile weapons platforms improve.

“We just picked up the last of these new systems (AH-64 Longbow, Lot 8) in December,” said Chief Warrant Officer Larry Paul, an aviator from Attack Platoon. “They added another screen, making it easier to acquire targets, and there is new software to go with it. It gives pilots 3-D maps and satellite imagery to use in their navigation and target finding.”

These improvements and exercises are the things Rapavi said he sees that will allow his battalion to more effectively fulfill their missions.

“This training allows pilots to engage naturally,” he said, “and enables us to go out and do combined-arms type training.

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