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NEWS | July 14, 2015

Ghost Riders conduct Apache range prior to Black Hawk transition

By Capt. David Dunn 11th Aviation Brigade

CONROE, Texas - U.S. Army soldiers are used to change. As a flexible fighting force, there are moments that even the horse that you ride into combat on evolves. The aircrews and maintenance soldiers of the 1-158th Aviation Regiment “Ghost Riders,” along with the support of soldiers from the 90th Aviation Support Battalion, conducted a AH-64 Apache gunnery range at North Fort Hood, Texas. from 1 to 7 June 2015. The air crews conducted one of the organization’s final Apache gunnery ranges prior to transitioning to the UH-60 Black Hawk.

While the Apache will be missed and there are challenges ahead, the pilots of the 1-158th Aviation Regiment are looking forward to getting to know the Black Hawk. In fact, they see the Black Hawk as a great opportunity for the organization.

“The Apache is the sports car of the aviation world. Whenever you give up the sports car for the sports utility vehicle, there will be some slight challenges but the biggest thing I see for the unit is the increase in lift capability,” according to Major Derrick Hart, Executive Officer of the 1-158th Aviation Regiment, from Huntsville, Texas.

While the Apache allowed the unit to bring more fire power to the battlefield, the transition to the Black Hawk will allow the organization to give back to fellow Texans.

“I’m also excited because living in a hurricane zone, the potential for helping out the population with search and rescue or bring supplies like food or water to areas devastated by a hurricane. That is an advantage of the Black Hawk verses the Apache,” said Hart.

With the great opportunity the Black Hawk brings, there will also be challenges that soldiers of the 1-158th Aviation Regiment face with new jobs for maintenance personnel, crew chiefs receiving flight physicals and pilots learning to fly a new air-frame.

“There will be some difficulties but they will be shortly overcome by constant practice, bringing in subject matter experts and adding the experience of those leaving active duty to join our team,” says Capt. Chris White, Operations Officer with the 1-158th Aviation Regiment, from Port Neches, Texas.

Hart and White both agree that the organization will see more unit cohesion as soldiers will be able to fly along with pilots. It also provides an opportunity for face-to-face interaction with ground troops.

“Being an ex-infantry guy I am looking forward to going back to my roots I grew up doing parachute drops, fast roping, repelling; those kind of operations where you have more face-to-face contact with the ground unit,” says Hart.

The gunnery range is the exercise that allows commanders to validate their crews and soldiers to train on equipment that they normally don’t get a chance to interact with back at their home station. This particular gunnery range, allows for pilots that have flown the Apache for their entire careers, to have one last opportunity to engage targets in an
attack helicopter.

“The gunnery exercise has been a great way for us to validate the hard work that has gone into this all year,” says Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dave Dicks, an Apache Pilot with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-158th Aviation Regiment, from Banner Elk, North Carolina.

The 1-158th Aviation Regiment plan to transition to the UH-60 Black Hawk in 2016