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NEWS | July 10, 2019

Multi-component soldiers unite, deliver aviation excellence

By Staff Sgt. Luis Delgadillo 244th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade

The job can be simple: follow scheduled maintenance intervals, get parts, perform service and when necessary; find what is broken and fix it.

Layer in the high temperatures, blowing dust and the demands of supporting Task Force Warhawk’s roles in Operations Spartan Shield and Inherent Resolve, and the true maintenance mission for 244th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers begins to come into focus. 

One slice of that larger pie belongs to Soldiers of Company D, 8th Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment, currently deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait. The company, which is also made up of Soldiers from the Kentucky and Louisiana Army National Guard, is responsible for ensuring the safety and reliability of the 8-229th’s aviation assets. 

“With the maintenance that we have going on here, for every hour that you fly in an aircraft there is about 2-3 hours of maintenance on the backside that needs to be conducted,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dave Lanoue, the battalion’s maintenance operations officer. 

“So what that means, is that with the crew chiefs, (mechanics) that we have and the avionics support (staff), these guys are working non-stop, always researching, non-stop inspecting components and parts to make sure that we have the safest aircraft to fly.” 

Now entering their fourth month in theater, Lanoue attributes the battalion’s success to the professionalism and positive attitudes of maintenance, and service and support soldiers working 24/7. “They get the least amount of credit and they do the majority of the work here and without them our mission would be a complete failure.”

And failure of the 244th CAB isn’t an option.

“It’s a big deal, there are a lot of components that can ‘ground’ a bird,” said Johnathan Kessel, an aviation component repair specialist with the Kentucky ANG’s 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment, currently assigned to D Company.  He said that one has to maintain a professional approach to the work they do because, “at the end of the day, people’s lives are at stake.”

Kessel said one of the elements that also helped the unit be successful has been the way the different units came together at Fort Hood, Texas.

“That was the first initial hurdle we had to cross, platoon cohesion,” Kessel said.

The person responsible with bringing them together and keeping them working together as team is D Company Commander, Capt. Derrek Montoya. 

“When we showed up to Fort Hood we were three detachments that formed D Company,” said Montoya. “The detachments are from Hammond, Louisiana from the Louisiana Guard, Frankfort, Kentucky from the Kentucky Guard and the Army Reserve side (8-229th) is from Fort Knox, Kentucky. Each location brought their best and within a couple of weeks of forming at Fort Hood we were really able to establish a team.”

One of the reasons Montoya continues to have confidence in his maintainers is because approximately 50 percent of his Soldiers have civilian jobs at aviation flight facilities back home. 

Montoya, knows firsthand the importance of having a high-performing team in charge of helicopter maintenance, he is a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot.

“I really try to get my leadership team in D Company to focus on customer service and returning a good product back to the flight line. And they’re on board,” he said. As Montoya and his Soldiers continue to support the 8-229th’s ongoing role in U.S. Army Central’s Operation Spartan Shield, the teamwork, and proficiency will remain on full display with every safe landing. Together, ANG and USAR Soldiers deliver because that’s what heroes do.