Army uses state's tallest mountains for Afghanistan training - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Army uses state's tallest mountains for Afghanistan training

Frank Tate Frank Tate
Allison Morgan Allison Morgan
Shane Gingrich Shane Gingrich
Douglas Mulbury Douglas Mulbury

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD (HawaiiNewsNow) - Footage from the cockpit shows helicopter pilots with the 25th Aviation Brigade practicing takeoffs and landings on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

"Helicopters are heavily affected by high altitude. The higher up you are the less efficient the engines and rotor systems perform," said Col. Frank Tate, commander of the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade.

The just completed training precedes an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

"Being able to experience it here, while no one is shooting at us and while it's relatively calm, it gives us a chance to really figure out what the limits of ourselves and our aircraft are," Chief Warrant Officer 2 Allison Morgan said.

The choppers she and other Army pilots will fly in Afghanistan are UH-60 Blackhawks and the new CH-47 F Chinook that will deposit troops and supplies in tough terrain.

It's the third deployment for Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shane Gingrich, but it will be his first flying the new Chinook.

"We can just put two wheels on the ground and lower the ramp and let guys off," he said. "It's a very versatile aircraft. We can land in a lot of different places."

The Army used Pohakuloa Training Area for fifteen days. It said it paid "extreme focus" to not harming environmental and cultural sites.

"It started with field surveys to ensure that we understood potentially what the threatened endangered species might be in that area, and then extensive field work," said Col. Douglas Mulbury, commander of U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii.

The army said the state's tallest mountains provided pilots a real feel that could save lives.

"When the aviators get to Afghanistan, they'll know what it feels like. They'll know how to escape bad situations, know how to avoid them, and how to predict them," Tate said.

The aviation brigade's 3,000 Schofield troops leave for Afghanistan in January.


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