MONROVIA, Liberia – As service members of the Joint Forces Command – United Assistance continue the fight against the Ebola virus disease, some challenges are still present. Many Liberian roadways aren't developed to the standard of what service members are accustomed to back in America, some of them impassable with ground vehicles.
However, Soldiers from Task Force Iron Knights, 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, make sure getting from one place to another isn't a problem.
A maintenance crew from Task Force Iron Knights, 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Armored Division, conducts helicopter maintenance on a UH-60 Black Hawk at James Spriggs Payne Airfield, Monrovia, Liberia, using a spider crane Dec. 13, 2014. It took only two weeks for the Iron Knights to deploy from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Liberia after receiving their orders. Operation United Assistance is a Department of Defense operation in Liberia to provide logistics, training and engineering support to U.S. Agency for International Development-led efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in western Africa. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes, Joint Forces Command – United Assistance Public Affairs)
“We can get anybody to anyplace in Liberia,” said Command Sgt. Maj. John Kolodgy, of 1st CAB, Task Force Iron Knights, based out at James Spriggs Payne Airfield. “Our overall mission is to provide aviation support to the JFC-UA and transportation to all ETU's and training sites,” said Kolodgy.
One of Task Force Iron Knights missions is executing re-supply and transport missions.
“We get key personnel like the command group out to remote areas so they can make decisions and see the areas that need development.”
Some of the equipment flown to the ETU sites include construction and electrical equipment and food and water, all of which aids in the construction of ETUs across Liberia.
These vital missions allow daily operations to take place as smoothly as possible and therefore play a major support role in the JFC-UA's overall mission.
Before any aircraft can take to the air, maintenance pilots, along with the crew, must conduct necessary maintenance, which sometimes includes phase maintenance, a process of disassembling, inspecting, fixing and reassembling an aircraft.
“Once we receive the work order, we bring the aircraft in, break it down, inspect the aircraft, find and fix the deficiency, and then put it back together,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Trevor Bremer, maintenance test pilot for Company A, Task Force Iron Knights.
Once the maintenance is completed, the aircraft are ready to get back to flying.
“I feel like we're the bus drivers of the sky,” said Bremer. “It's imperative that we get the right people and supplies out to the right places because they're depending on us to give them that ride.”
Without the aid of Task Force Iron Knights most missions would take days to weeks to complete because many of the roads in Liberia are impassable, said Bremer.
Having the ability to move freely across the sky for this deployment did not come easy. The unit had less than two weeks to prepare and move out for this.
“Once we got the call, it took us about two weeks to get our Soldiers prepared and ready to move out,” said Kolodgy.
The preparations included loading helicopters onto cargo ships and fixed-wing planes, individual crew member training and specific medical training for the environment they were headed for.
The key to any deployment is how well Soldiers can adapt.
“Once we got to Liberia, our Soldiers hit the ground running and never looked back,” said Kolodgy. “Our success is built on the friendship of the Liberians as well as the 101st setting the stage for us being here.”
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes
Provided through DVIDS
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