Wednesday, September 26, 2007

12th CAB TF12 - High op-tempo and important missions

An AH-64D Apache helicopter from the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade's 2nd Bn. 159th Aviation Regiment makes its approach at a remote forward arming and refueling point while Soldiers on the ground wait to rearm it at Logistics Support Area Anaconda, Iraq. (US Army Photo)

few months into a 15-month deployment, V-Corps' 12th Combat Aviation Brigade settled into its role as the primary aviation asset for Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

The bulk of the brigade, including its headquarters, and four battalions are now working at Balad's Logistics Support Area Anaconda. The CAB is organized in Iraq as Task Force XII - augmented by a battalion of National Guard Soldiers from Minnesota's 2nd Bn, 147th Aviation Regiment, and a battalion of fixed wing aircraft from the National Guard's Operational Support Airlift Command.

Though deployed, the 12th CAB is still largely involved in the aviation mission in Europe. About 1,700 members of the brigade remain in Europe, supporting US Army Europe's aviation needs with units in Germany, Italy and Belgium.

"Although the bulk of the brigade is deployed we have significant units with vital missions that remain back in Europe," said 12th CAB Commander, Col. Timothy Edens.

"Those units continue to provide USAREUR with attack helicopter, general support aviation, and air traffic services as well as ensuring the health, welfare, training and preparation of our Soldiers and Families that remain behind," he said.

In Iraq, the 12th CAB flew its first missions in June with its attack helicopter unit, the 2nd Bn. 159th Aviation Regiment from Illesheim, Germany. The rest of the brigade arrived within a month, and after a brief handoff from the Texas National Guard's 36th CAB, began flying missions throughout Iraq in support of MNC-I.

As of September 20th, after about three months of flying, aircraft assigned to Task Force XII had logged some 11,513 flight hours, hauling 2.7 million pounds of cargo and more than 33,000 passengers over 1,738 missions.

"The operational tempo is very high here," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Ryan Collier, an instructor pilot for B Co. 2nd Bn 159th Aviation Regiment. "Most pilots are looking at doing about five years worth of flying in 15 months here in Iraq."

The 12th CAB is not the only Combat Aviation Brigade in theater, but it is the only Aviation Brigade that covers the entire country. Because the 12th CAB is a 'Corps separate' asset, its mission is unique. "We're the 'catch all' guys," said brigade targeting officer, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jasbir Riat. "The other CABs in theater all support a division, and have a specified area of operations."

Besides the attack and reconnaissance mission of the 2-159th, 12th CAB also provides aviation support through Task Force Ready: The 5th Bn., 158th Aviation Regiment along with the National Guard's 2-147th handle the bulk of the rotary wing passenger travel in theater.

Task Force Storm is comprised of the Soldiers from 3rd Bn., 158th Aviation Regiment and 'Big Windy', a company of CH-47 Chinooks from 5-158th. Along with some cargo missions, this Task Force handles air assault missions and support for ground troops in theater.

"They do a number of air assault missions and cargo missions, as well as supporting the Sustainment Command here on LSA Anaconda with our air weapons systems," said Riat.

The final, and largest portion of the brigade comes with the Soldiers of the 412th Aviation Support Battalion. The 412th provides logistics and maintenance support for the CAB to include operation of a forward arming and refueling point that sees traffic from this and other units.

"I've gotten to work with Kiowas from other units as well as our Apaches," said B Co., 412th ASB's Pfc. Philip McHale. "Loading ordnance is the same no matter where you go."

These battalions, all from Katterbach, Germany, have taken on the directed tasks, and are expected to remain in Iraq with the CAB until October of 2008.

"I think we are off to a great start," said Col. Edens. "We are flying, fixing and flying again through an operational tempo that is absolutely incredible. The Soldiers across the brigade are busy, focused and in a high state of morale and esprit as they go about their daily duties," he said.