Flying Apaches Runs In The Family
(May 14, 2011)
CAMP TAJI, Iraq / May 9, 2011 -- Chief Warrant
Officer Brendon McNamara, left, Capt. Dennis McNamara and Capt.
Elizabeth McNamara are AH-64 Apache helicopter pilots for the 8-229
Attack Reconnaissance Battalion from Fort Knox, Ky. Dennis is the
proud father of Brendon and Elizabeth. Photo by Army Spc.
CAMP TAJI, Iraq (May 12, 2011) – Having an AH-64 Apache attack
helicopter pilot for your dad is pretty cool. Even cooler is being
an Apache pilot and having two of your children follow in your
footsteps to become pilots, too.
“Without a doubt, I'm the
proudest man on earth,” said Capt. Dennis McNamara, an AH-64 Apache
Longbow attack helicopter pilot for the 8th Attack Reconnaissance
Battalion, 229th Aviation Regiment, an Army Reserve unit based out
of Fort Knox, Ky.
Capt. Dennis McNamara is currently
stationed at Camp Taji, Iraq, where he flies Apaches alongside his
daughter, Capt. Elizabeth McNamara, 28, and his son, Chief Warrant
Officer 2 Brendon McNamara, 24.
The AH-64 Apache is a mean
machine, heavily armed with Hellfire missiles, 2.75-inch rockets and
a 30 mm M230 chain gun. The aircraft is a formidable force in the
skies of Iraq, performing such tasks as reconnaissance, convoy
protection and air support for ground units.
The 8-229 ARB
Flying Tigers and its Apaches are currently attached to the 40th
Combat Aviation Brigade, which is on a yearlong deployment to Iraq
in support of Operation New Dawn. The brigade is performing
full-spectrum aviation operations in the country, and the 8-229 is
its attack arm.
Capt. Dennis McNamara served 12 years in the
active-duty Army before taking a full-time position at Fort Knox
with the 8-229. After 11 years with the unit, he moved to California
to take a job with the Boeing Corporation, while switching over to a
Reserve unit based out of Los Alamitos, Calif.
Dennis was at home in Helendale, Calif., when he learned that his son
and daughter were deploying to Iraq with his old unit. |
couldn't see both my children deploying and leaving me at home,” he
said. He called the unit's commander, Lt. Col. James Posey, and asked to
rejoin the 8-229 for the deployment.
“Dennis McNamara and I have
worked together for several years, so I considered it an honor to have
his children serving in my command, and I welcomed his return to the
unit,” Posey said. “When the chance presented itself for him to deploy
with us, I was a little concerned with having over half the family in my
unit, in a combat zone, and all flying the same aircraft! We quickly
decided they could not fly together while here, but at least they could
all serve in the same area together.”
Capt. Dennis McNamara has
been flying Apaches for more than 20 years now. He served in Operation
Desert Storm and in Operation Iraqi Freedom. But for his two kids, this
deployment was their first.
Elizabeth and Brendon, who both call
Louisville, Ky., home, said having their father with them has its
advantages, giving them an extra “support element” while here.
Elizabeth is a platoon leader in her battalion. She said her father
knows a thing or two about leadership. Her father had been a warrant
officer in the 8-229 when he was made a company commander due to a
vacancy. He did such a good job of it that at age 44 he was offered a
direct commission and became a second lieutenant right at the time
Elizabeth was completing ROTC at the University of Kentucky.
With Elizabeth now in a command position, her father offers her advice
and gives her critiques on her leadership style. They often talk while
eating together at the dining facility or while hanging out when off
Brendon, as a warrant officer, is a technical expert on
flying, and he and his father often discuss tactics. His father is
serving as an instructor pilot for the unit so talking about flying
comes with the territory. Their containerized housing units are close to
each other and they often hit the gym together, so despite being on
different schedules, there are plenty of chances for Brendon to talk to
Dad, not to mention salute him, and his big sister, too.
Capt. Dennis McNamara said his children were “Army brats” who
spent much of their childhoods around airfields, aircraft and helicopter
“Elizabeth, at four years old, told me that she would fly
Apaches when she grew up,” he said. “At the time, women weren't allowed
to fly Apaches, so I encouraged her but didn't really think that would
happen. Most four year olds don't pick their career. But she stuck with
it and here we are.”
Elizabeth said some of her earliest memories
are of Apaches and the pilots who fly them. “I remember going out to the
airfield, guys playing volleyball, watching the parties at the gazebos.
I knew for a long time that I was going to join the Army, but the one
thing I wanted to do with it was fly attack helicopters. If we were
going to go to combat, I wanted to be the one in the sky with the gun.”
Brendon, on the other hand, didn't know until his late teens that
the Army was for him. Shortly after graduating from high school, he sat
down with his father and they discussed his future. After some fatherly
advice, Brendon decided to enlist in the Army Reserves, and became an
Apache crew chief. He did that for a few years before he submitted a
flight packet and was accepted into flight school at Fort Rucker, Ala.
He completed flight training in September just in time to make it onto
the deployment to Iraq.
What does he like about flying the
Apache? “It's nice having big guns in the sky,” he said.
said many find it amusing to have a father, daughter and son in the same
unit, but he said he feels lucky to have family here to fall back on.
In the blood
Brendon McNamara was born at Fort Rucker so in a
sense he was born to fly. As for Elizabeth, not only is she a pilot from
a family of pilots, she married a pilot, too.
“My dad always told
me to stay away from Apache pilots,” she said. But she didn't listen to
that bit of advice and married Capt. Brian Schlesier, who is currently
flying Apaches in Afghanistan.
Elizabeth said she doesn't think
it's that big a deal to be deployed with family members. “The 8-229 is
like a big family, anyway,” she said.
All three said the real
story about their deployment is wife and mom Cindy back home. “My wife's
the one who has all the stress,” Dennis said. “We have the fun of
flying. I tease her all the time because she used to complain that I
would deploy and leave her with all the kids, so now I say I took the
kids with me.”
For Dad, nearing the end of his Army career and
getting the chance to deploy with his children, he said it's been a
great privilege. “I can't stop being a father, but I try to be a mentor
and give advice. But sometimes as a father, you have to step back and
it's hard. I'm definitely honored that they followed me into this so I'm
conscious of always trying to set the right example. ... I have tremendous
faith in both of them. They are very good at what they do. They are very
professional and they get the job done.”
Posey agrees. “They are
top notch soldiers,” he said. “Runs in the family.”
By Army 1st Lt. Jason Sweeney
40th Combat Aviation Brigade
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