Warrior Stories

Task Force Out Front Brings Kiowa Warrior into Fight

Written by: Sgt. George Welcome

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Welcome Kiowa Warriors sit on Jalabad Airfield, as two more depart for a mission. The helicopter is an observation-light attack platform and is being used for the first time in the Jalalabad area.

By Spc. George Welcome
101st Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan – In wars past, the role of a cavalry unit in combat has been to serve as the "eyes and ears" of the division, providing awareness of the terrain and the enemy's capabilities. Cavalry's great speed, adaptability and fighting prowess served well for reconnaissance, thwarting enemy attacks and decimating the weakened opposition.

While today's cavalry troopers have traded horses for tracks, wheels and rotors, their impact on the battlefield remains as pivotal now as it was then. Task Force Out Front from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, is a multifunctional, mixed airframe task force, providing aviation support for the 173rd Airborne Brigade. New to its area of operations is the OH-58 D Kiowa Warrior, a reconnaissance and light attack helicopter. Its use over the skies of Jalalabad and surrounding areas will allow TF Out Front to continue the proud tradition of the cavalry.

"Our mission is to provide full-spectrum aviation support to TF Bayonet in Nuristan, Nangahar, Kunar and Laghman provinces," said Army Lt. Col. John Lynch, TF Out Front commander. "Full spectrum means we provide everything from attack helicopters, to Chinooks to move supplies and conduct air assaults, the same with our Black Hawks, and our Kiowas will provide reconnaissance. We also provide maintenance and (Forward Arming and Refueling Point) support as well."

Initially, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, which is the core of TF Out Front, was slated to deploy to Iraq instead of Afghanistan. It was thought that the single engine Kiowa Warrior would have difficulty operating in Afghanistan's higher elevation.

"The driving force behind bringing the Kiowa Warrior here was the desire to put an aviation task force headquarters with a squadron commander here in Jalalabad," said Lynch. "There are certainly challenges present with the Kiowa. We had to look at areas on the map where we could use the Kiowa successfully, and that's usually in the lower elevations."

Despite some of the limitations of the Kiowa Warrior, the task force is committed to finding ways to use its assets to making the ground safer for Coalition forces and the people of Afghanistan.

"Kiowa Warriors have never operated up here in the north," said Army Maj. Jeffrey Bouma, TF Out Front executive officer. "We've already done a lot of good work with convoy security, reconnaissance; we've already found a number of (improvised explosive device) locations and escorted over 50 convoys during security missions. That, along with the CH-47's we have here as well as the Black Hawks and MEDEVAC assets being added, should have a positive impact. I really think we are going to have a chance to get the enemy off his game."

Currently, the most common mission for Kiowa pilots in the task force is convoy security.

"I just flew in a convoy security mission with some added area reconnaissance yesterday," said Bouma. "It was a good mission; we were successful in getting the convoy from its start point to its release point without any IED or small-arms incidents. I talked to Lt. Col. Jeff Milhorn, 173rd Special Troops Battalion commander, and he was appreciative of the coverage the Kiowas provided."

According to Bouma, the Kiowa Warrior is easy to maintain, easy to get airborne and has very low maintenance relative to other airframes in the Army. Once it's up there it can provide effective coverage. But all that would not be possible without support from maintainers who keep the aircraft flying.

"D Troop's mission is aviation maintenance in support of the task force combat operations," said Army Capt. Andrew Herzberg, D Troop commander. "We maintain and repair all four [Mission Design Series]; attack helicopters, cargo helicopters, utility helicopters and observation helicopters. The biggest challenge we have right now is that everyone who was in the troop back in Fort Campbell was an OH-58 D maintainer. We got over here and picked up all the other MDS' and there is a very steep learning curve involved in learning how other aircraft are maintained, because it's completely different than how Kiowas are maintained. Fortunately, I have a really good crew here who are all motivated and excited to be doing their jobs."

Fuel and ammunition are also important in keeping the helicopters of TF Out Front in the fight.

"The forward-support troop provides organizational and direct support in reference to refueling and supplying ammunition and ground maintenance," said Army Capt. Brian Falcasantos, E Troop commander. "Basically, we are responsible for all the maintenance for non-aviation assets. As we weren't replacing any unit, we've had to develop the systems we needed to make sure we were tracking everything. We get all the non-sexy jobs; refueling, resupplying ammunition and fixing trucks, but without us the task force wouldn't be able to accomplish its mission."

With a long mission in front of them, TF Out Front hopes that in its time in the Jalalabad area, it can not only cause major disruption in enemy activity, but leave its base and area of operations better for the unit that will replace it.

"We want to have the footprint established for the next team, so when they hit the ground they can go right into conducting whatever operations they want to conduct," said Lynch. "They won't have to waste a lot of time and energy worrying about the infrastructure. They will be able to conduct phase maintenance here because they'll have the proper space and tools, instead of having to send aircraft back to Bagram. Operationally, we want to be flexible enough and adapt over the course of the deployment to pose a challenge to the enemy and make them react in ways they did not want to. If we can do that, we absolutely will help the ground-force commander here to be successful in this area."

Source:  View Story


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