JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska – Helicopters and personnel from the 1-52nd General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB), normally stationed at Fort Wainwright, practiced sling load and long-range flight operations around Prudhoe Bay Aug. 17-26.
Two UH-60 Black Hawk and two CH-47 Chinook helicopters with about 25 support personnel staged from the Deadhorse Airport while flying missions over the Arctic tundra to increase the reach of 1-52nd Aviation Regiment beyond Interior Alaska and to focus on long-range organic logistics to support flight companies as they train on expeditionary deployment tasks.
The flight operations focused mainly on areas east of Deadhorse along the North Slope, said Capt. Jacob Norris, assistant operations officer for the “Flying Dragons” of the 1-52nd GSAB.
“This was a great opportunity to be able to base ourselves out of Deadhorse and fly up all along the Arctic coastline where there’s not a lot of infrastructure put in for flying, there’s not a lot of weather reporting, there’s not a lot of fuel stations, and then use a lot of those inherent scenarios to base load plans and training off of for our pilots,” Norris said.
Weather along Alaska’s North Slope also fed into the training realism.
“It is a notorious terrible-weather area,” Norris explained. “We’ve had some low ceilings with some fog that has been persisting and just some terrible visibility. When all that lifted, we had incredible high winds that were outside the limitations of the Chinooks we have up here, as well as the Black Hawks to take off and go fly.
“Nobody likes to not fly, but it provides a phenomenal training opportunity for our pilots to truly know what terrible weather looks like and what they can and cannot fly in,” he said.
Norris said missions like this one in Deadhorse and an earlier mission flying around the Aleutian Islands in Alaska’s far southwest help prepare the Flying Dragons to support the 11th Airborne Division in its role in the Army’s Arctic Strategy.
“Everything that we’re try to do is to extend the reach of the GSAB. The biggest thing we can bring to the fight for the 11th Airborne is to allow a ground commander to move their people as far as they can. So, if we can reach every corner of Alaska, we feel like we’re doing our job.”