CONROE, Texas –
Once the skies cleared after Hurricane Harvey moved off, the work of cleaning up was hampered by flooding across the counties. This didn’t slow down the tight-knit aviation community around Conroe.
As donors began to send semi-trucks of water and supplies into the area, the Conroe North Houston Regional Airport became the natural staging point for relief operations.
Two local aviators, Chad Herdrich and Mike Barksdale, began to negotiate hanger space to store the supplies and called for local pilots to carry them to flooded communities north of Beaumont. As they began to carry the cargo two problems faced the aviators. Their personal aircraft could only carry a few hundred pounds at a time and the airspace became congested with military helicopters trying to locate trapped survivors.
As a solution, the two men reached out to local U.S. Army Reserve aviators with the 1st Battalion (Assault Helicopter Battalion), 158th Aviation Regiment. One day later, four CH-47 Chinooks from the 7th Battalion (General Support Aviation Battalion), 158th Aviation Regiment, each capable of moving 15,000 lbs. of water, took on the mission. Both regiments are part of the U.S. Army Reserve Aviation Command
“We kept having semi-loads show up and we just weren’t cutting a dent into it,” says Herdrich. “…The Army Reserve comes in and tackles the issue with these big CH-47 Chinooks and God bless them that they came in and helped us out.”
“We do have the capability to move a massive amount of cargo to affected areas with four Chinook and three UH-60 Black Hawks. Yesterday, we moved just shy of 100,000 pounds,” says Capt. Chris Fishel, an assistant operations officer for 1st Battalion (Assault Helicopter Battalion), 158th Aviation Regiment. “Safety is always paramount and airspace de-confliction is a huge aspect of it.”
Because America's Army Reserve is the most capable, combat-ready, and lethal Federal Reserve force in the history of the Nation they provides capabilities critical to DSCA response, including search and rescue, aviation, engineer, transportation, medical and communications support. America’s Army Reserve owns a stake in domestic welfare with Soldiers and equipment in more than 1,100 communities across the nation, allowing immediate response to local emergencies.
“Here’s the bottom line for the Army Reserve and for this unit in particular, the 1st of the 158th Assault Helicopter Battalion. This community has supported us through the good times, through the bad times for a lot of years. Having the opportunity to support the community that has supported us for all those years, is an honor, it’s a privilege and it’s a responsibility that we take very seriously,” Fishel said.