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A new aviation era begins

Arrival marks first time Apache helicopters have been permanently stationed on JBLM

Published: 05:42PM May 17th, 2012
A new aviation era begins

Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

A Gray Army Airfield crew secures an Apache helicopter after its arrival at JBLM May 11. The 1-229 ARB transition should be complete by July. Photos by Scott Hansen/Northwest Guardian

At Gray Army Airfield last week, two long columns of aircraft appeared on the south horizon. As they drew closer, the Apache helicopters, shaped with their signature arrays of guns and launchers, signaled to Joint Base Lewis-McChord air controllers that 1st Battalion, 229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion had arrived.

The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade welcomed 10 AH-64 Apache and six UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters May 11 as 1-229 ARB completed the first phase of its relocation from Fort Hood, Texas, to JBLM. The arrival marked the first time AH-64 Apache helicopters have been permanently stationed on JBLM.

The move of the 1-229 ARB is a part of Army aviation’s ongoing transformation to a modular force and the consolidation of its units. While 1-229 ARB already falls under the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, its relocation will allow for greater joint training opportunities on JBLM.

“We exist to support the ground commanders,” Lt. Col. Geoff Crawford, 1-229 ARB commander, said after leading the three-day air convoy from Fort Hood. “It’s been a long time coming and as the 16th CAB is building, we’ll bring added capability to the brigade. We’ll also bring added capability to the ground units here and hopefully that relationship will not only make us better, but help them in their training as well.”

The relocation of 1-229 ARB will make 16th CAB the fourth largest brigade on JBLM, in addition to the largest aviation brigade in the Army.

With its newest assets, 16th CAB will be able to work in multifunctional task force configurations. Using different types of aircraft together, the unit will increase its ability to employ some of the most effective combat aircraft formations available to meet mission objectives.

Because the Apache has a greater weapons payload and longer range, 1-229 ARB will provide increased support to ground units in achieving overall mission objectives. Crawford added that the unit will soon receive upgraded Apaches that will allow for better instrument flying in the Pacific Northwest’s overcast skies.

He also said that though Apaches might be new to the South Sound, the impact on the community will be minimal as his Soldiers will use the same training areas as JBLM’s current aviation assets.

The 1-229 ARB will bring approximately 500 additional personnel, 14 more Apache and nine more Black Hawk helicopters during the coming months. The transition is scheduled to be complete by late July.

The arrival will also bring approximately 1,000 Family members into the surrounding communities, which will contribute to local economic growth and create more volunteer opportunities in the area. Fewer than 50 1-229 ARB Soldiers are here now; 150 more departed Hood this week and the rest will arrive in June.

Sergeant Tyler Barth, a 1-229 ARB Apache electrical and armament maintainer, was one of the unit’s first arrivals a month ago. He said though change isn’t easy, he sees optimism in the ranks.

“We’ve had a lot of people get comfortable (at Hood), but the majority of people are ready to come here,” he said. “It’s a better place — there’s a better quality of life here.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Rob Teague, 1-229 ARB, emphasized his unit’s excitement to train with ground forces like the ones at JBLM. In the past they’d join forces at places like the National Training Center or downrange, but soon it’ll be out at Yakima Training Center and on nearby ranges.

“That’ll be the good thing about being here, we’re going to be able to do a face-to-face meeting with the people we’re supporting and training with,” he said. “The phone is great, the Internet is great, but when you get a chance to sit across from the people you’re going to be working with — we bring a unique capability, they have a unique capability, and when we bring them together we can do a lot of good things.”