Army Helicopter Squadron First To Train At Sea In The Persian Gulf
The U.S. Army’s 3-159th "Quickstrike" Attack Reconnaissance Battalion met the USS New York in the Persian Gulf Friday bringing with them a lot of firsts. The battalion became the first to land an AH-64D Longbow Apache aboard the vessel when they partnered with the Navy crew to train the Army pilots how to land on the deck of a ship. “We’ve never had an Apache aboard this ship until today,” said Navy Capt. Jon Kreitz, commanding officer of the USS New York. “We take every chance we get to do something special and today is no different."
After flying from their base of operations in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, over the Persian Gulf, the 3-159th ARB Commander Lt. Col. Steve Murphy and his crew of four pilots arrived at the USS New York. The pilots took turns landing the Apache helicopter on the ship. They performed deck landing qualifications and can now train other pilots in the battalion. “We are the first active duty group to perform this kind of mission,” said Chief Warrant Officer Four Thomas Higgins, "Quickstrike" battalion aviation safety officer. “It’s a really big deal actually, because this type of training is usually limited to special forces."
The mission was conceived in January when Battalion Master Gunner Chief Warrant Officer 3 Glenn Blanche trained with the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division. Since then it was a developing opportunity for the battalion. “Not only do we qualify our pilots, we fill a major capabilities gap for the Navy,” said Higgins. “The armament and flight capabilities of the Apache are widely varied from the Cobra helicopter and give traditional blue water Navy a kind of security they’ve never had."
The training took place over two days and will continue through the ARB’s deployment to Kuwait as part of their mission in support of Operation Spartan Shield.
In addition to the training benefits, getting to see the USS New York was a once in a lifetime opportunity. "I was a Marine for over ten years and never even got on a ship,” said Higgins.
The U.S. Navy commissioned the USS New York as the fourth amphibious transport dock ship in their worldwide fleet. As an amphibious transport unit its primary mission is to deploy for rapid transport of personnel and equipment. She is already a unique vessel for this reason, but now it becomes the first vessel to host this kind of advanced aviation training with an Army attack reconnaissance battalion. “I have mentor pilots who’ve never done anything like this,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Heath Hielsberg. “To be a part of the only active duty squad flying onto boats is fascinating.”
Other pilots involved with the training included Chief Warrant Officers 3 Kevin Martin, Stephen Buckley and Jeffrey Wedgewood. The 3-159th ARB will continue to operate over the gulf for the duration of its deployment, to include aerial gunnery and flight training missions.
(Pictrued: An AH-64D Longbow Apache lands aboard the USS New York in the Persian Gulf during a series of training exercises over water. Army Photo by Spc. Tom Johnson)