AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
The CH-47 Chinook, a powerful and hefty helicopter, has passed over the heads of service members aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, for the past months. The rapid beat of it blades is still enticing enough to catch eyes from the pedestrians below after hundreds of sightings. Among the screeches and thumps that compose the daily aerial symphony of the flight line, the Chinook’s sounds won’t add to the melody of combat aviation in the days to come at Al Asad.
The soldiers with Company B, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, took their last flight from Al Asad, Dec. 1, 2009. The eight Chinooks have moved to Talil, Iraq, in support of operations for Multi-National Division - South, where Company B, 5th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, will put the aircraft to use.
“[Marine Aircraft Group 26 (Reinforced)] treated us like family from the get-go and helped us any way they could,” explained Army Maj. Guy Bass, commander of Company B, 1-214th. “When we came on board here, it was a seamless transition, and quickly everyone forgot that we were Army Reserve or soldiers and treated us just like Marines doing the same mission.”
Upon the unit’s arrival, the Chinook crews took a large role in obligatory
operations previously fulfilled by the Marine Corps’ MV-22 Osprey.
“As for the [Osprey], we did face some issues there,” said Bass. The [Osprey] doesn’t carry as much, but it does [fly] farther and faster. The customers that we were serving were used to that farther, faster mission, which obviously we don’t do. We carry a lot of stuff to a lot of places, certainly faster than other airframes, but not as fast as the Osprey.”
The Chinook’s large cargo hold and ability to tow some of the heaviest equipment make it a juggernaut of the transportation industry, which comprised the bulk of the 1-214th’s mission. The unit moved 555,868 pounds of cargo and 13,920 passengers during their deployment.
“We did an excellent job, not only in carrying troops and cargo, combat, combat support and combat-service support missions, but also customer service,” mentioned Bass. “We excelled in being very ready to accept additional missions.”
While the U.S. Army and Marine Corps stand together as two of the finest military factions in the world, they still faced some problems working together. A language barrier stood between the two organizations.
“We were an Army unit coming into a Marine environment, so we had to learn a lot of lingo, policies and procedures in order to execute the missions properly,” said Army Capt. Brandon Savat, executive officer with Company B, 1-214th. “It’s nice to see how another branch of the military does something that adds to your knowledge base. If you ever find yourself in that situation again, you know that it can be done and you know how to complete the mission. It just takes a little time and initiative to learn how to work with your counterparts.”
Working together with other units of the Aviation Combat Element for Multi National Force - West, particularly with Marines, the soldiers maintained their combat readiness and enhanced their capabilities in joint military operations.
“With the command relationship that we had, my peers would always say, ‘what is it like working for Marines?’” said Bass. “I think that we are the first reserve heavy-lift unit to be deployed in a joint role. There were Marines capable of working on multiple aircraft, and occasionally I’d have them down there working on [Chinooks] right beside my soldiers … being a part of a family and coming together to make things happen.”
Bass and Savat ended their deployment assured that the next time their nation called on them to lead in combat, that a successful joint partnership with Marines would be the least of their worries.