CLEARWATER, Fla. –
Measuring readiness can be difficult. One way to measure readiness is to stress the system and evaluate the response. How the team responds when information, guidance and changes are swirling around them speaks to the resiliency of the unit. The Army Reserve Aviation Command (ARAC) did just this with the evacuation of nine UH-60 helicopters from Clearwater, Florida to Fort Knox, Kentucky, August 31, 2019. With less than 24 hours’ notice, the 244th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade (ECAB), U.S. Army Reserve Aviation Command, gathered Soldiers from three distinct locations, assembled them in Clearwater, flew nine aircraft over 700 miles, and returned all the crews to their home station in the same day.
As Hurricane Dorian bore down on the United States, August 30, the ARAC directed the 244th ECAB to prepare to evacuate their aircraft from Clearwater. The ambitious plan drawn up by the 244th ECAB involved utilizing crews from three locations – Clearwater; Ft Bragg, North Carolina; and Fort Knox. The crews from Bragg and Knox flew to Clearwater on C-12s provided by the 2-228th Theater Fixed Wing Battalion (TFWB) and 6-52nd TFWB on the morning of August 31. All nine aircraft would then fly the 700 miles to Knox with two to three stops for fuel. The plan called for all crews to return home the same day on additional C-12 flights.
The operation involved two separate ECABs coordinating support as well as the Aviation Support Facilities (ASF) for Clearwater and Knox. This was a total team effort that was only possible on such short notice due to the unique structure of Army Reserve Aviation. The interoperability between units in different states, flexibility of support provided by multiple ASFs under a single headquarters, and multi Brigade assets under a single Command are unique within the Army. No other one or two star headquarters has two aviation brigades. Only Army corps have multiple aviation brigades outside of the ARAC.
The structure enabled the mission, but the men and women of the Army Reserve Aviation Command made this mission happen. People are number one. People deliver the readiness the Army needs to fight and win on the future battlefields. The Soldiers of the 2444th ECAB, the 11th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, and the civilians of the Aviation Support Facilities delivered because of their professionalism, training, resiliency, and determination. They made a complex mission happen on short notice. They responded to unforeseen challenges, adjusted on the fly and completed the mission. They represent the most capable, combat-ready and lethal Federal Reserve force in the history of the nation.
Col. Andrew D. Cecil is the Deputy Commanding Officer of the Army Reserve Aviation Command.