There are three possible reasons to fly, a mission, a training mission or a VIP mission. The planning begins days ahead of time in the Pilot’s office with the flight plans. If it is a VIP to be transported the POC (Point of Contact), usually a Captain, for the VIP is notified and kept in the loop as plans are put into place. For all missions there is a complete Risk Briefing to evaluate low, moderate or high risk, depending on what it is. The weather is constantly monitored, a crew is chosen and when all the proper paperwork is done and the evaluations are complete, the appropriate officer signs off on it for mission approval. The low approval comes from the company commander, moderate the battalion commander, and high the commanding general. The day of the mission the first thing they check on is the weather. Weather call time is 0600, and that will determine if the mission is a go or no go.
If it’s a go, preflight begins. The first thing that is done is looking for FOD (Foreign Object Damage), which is a walk around the bird looking at the outside meticulously and also checking fluid levels, filters, and general condition and security of everything. Then the pilot climbs up top and checks for FOD and the rotors. The engines are also checked. They also take a fluid sample. The crew chief for the flight also does a preflight and both the crew chief and the pilot in command have to sign off on the preflight. The pilot in command flying the mission is at that time in charge even above those who may out rank him.
Then the run up and HIT check. Aboard are usually two crew chiefs to secure any passengers. For VIP, you are three hours early. Once there is the all clear they are ready to fly. Camp Zama 78th Aviation Battalion Command has 5 UH-60 Blackhawks. They weigh around 16,500 lbs on average depending on the configuration. They can attach extra fuel tanks if needed.
Behind the scenes, there’s the Crew Chief’s Office, where you find mission notes, flight schedule. They take care of some maintenance and have civilian contractors on staff. In the Weather Station, Air Force E-4 Timothy York lets the pilot know if they can fly out on any given day.
SGT Jessi Federman is the ALSE (aviation life support equipment) NCO (non-commissioned officer). Her job is to make sure all the gear worn on the flight suit is up to code. W2 Trailson Moore also is in charge of the NBC Room and there he maintains and signs out gas masks, gas/chemical suits, night vision goggles which I got to try on. The newer night vision adjusts to light.
I was very impressed the the men and women serving at The 78th Aviation Battalion Command. It was such a great experience to get to see just a small part of what my son-in-law does in Japan. I am very proud of him and so honored to meet some of the soldiers he works with. Thanks to W2 Trailson Moore and the members of the 78th Aviation Battalion for your service! And thanks Trailson for taking your mother-in-law, me, to work for a few hours!