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Retrograde In Full Swing In Afghanistan
by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman - November 7, 2014

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BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – In preparation for the Resolute Support Mission, and a reduced number of service members in Afghanistan, Soldiers of the 122nd Aviation Support Battalion and 3rd General Aviation Support Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, are responsible for sending aviation equipment and helicopters back to the United States in preparation for reset.

Long before helicopters head back to the United States, they must be broken down. Soldiers of the 122nd ASB work day and night to make sure the helicopters are ready when Air Force planes arrive.

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter is moved into position to be loaded on a C-17 Globemaster III, Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, October 10, 2014. This Black Hawk is one of many helicopters that will be returned to the states before the end of the year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman/ 82nd CAB PAO)
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter is moved into position to be loaded on a C-17 Globemaster III, Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, October 10, 2014. This Black Hawk is one of many helicopters that will be returned to the states before the end of the year. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman/ 82nd CAB PAO)

“(When reducing CH-47 Chinooks), the first thing you gotta do is remove the blades,” said Spc. Amekokoe Assogba, a CH-47 helicopter repairer, Bravo Company, 122nd ASB, 82nd CAB. “The next thing you do is remove the (pieces that hold the blades on the aircraft).”

Once the packages are removed, a major piece of the Chinook is removed.

“Once you remove the packages, then you have to remove the pylons,” said Assogba. “That is the only way it will fit in an aircraft.”

Once the pylons are removed and stored, work begins on the inside of the aircraft.

“Once the outside has been reduced, we remove the floor package from the inside,” said Assogba. “We clean the aircraft inside and out, and once that is done, customs will inspect the equipment.”

Customs is responsible for ensuring that all equipment leaving Afghanistan has no dirt or dust on it.

“Customs will check to make sure there is no dust or dirt on the equipment,” said Assogba. “We do a thorough cleaning of the aircraft to make sure we get a first-time ‘go.'”

Once customs gives the seal of approval, then the mobility team of the 82nd CAB begins the final stages to get the aircraft out of theater.

“(The 82nd CAB mobility team) is the Army representatives for our equipment going on Air Force planes,” said Staff Sgt. Krish Lalu, mobility non-commissioned officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 82nd CAB. “We work with the Special Handling Office to schedule a joint inspection.”

The SHO is responsible for making sure all equipment is air-worthy prior to the plane's arrival. With the various types of equipment that leaves theater, units provide crews to serve as subject-matter experts.

“When we have helicopters or other aviation equipment, we usually have a crew there that is familiar with the equipment to serve as subject-matter experts,” said Lalu. “Since a helicopter is very technical, we request mechanics or pilots to assist us.”

Prior planning is important to making sure the helicopter leaves when it is scheduled.

“We schedule our joint inspection a day or two prior to lift off,” said Lalu. “That way if there are any issues, we have time to correct it.”

Sometimes, during the joint inspection, issues may be found. If the Air Force inspectors deem it not air-worthy, it could be one of two things: administrative or mechanical.

“If it is administrative, the mobility team will fix it,” Lalu said. “If it is mechanical, the crew and pilots would have to fix the issue.”

Once the paperwork and mechanical issues are resolved, the equipment waits for its day to redeploy back to the states.

“Once the Air Force completes their inspection, and we both sign off on it, that that cargo is sterile,” said Lalu. “Nothing goes on it, it doesn't move. The next time it will move is to get on the aircraft.”

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Loren Rice, air transportation specialist, 455th Fighter Wing, serves as one of the joint inspectors of the Special Handling Office.

“We make sure the helicopter or other equipment is air-worthy,” said Rice. “We make sure things aren't broken or leaking. The aircraft must be clean, have the proper fuel level, and all tie-down points must be serviceable.”

Rice has enjoyed being a part of getting equipment out of Afghanistan.

“My favorite part is seeing all of the different types of cargo,” said Rice. “These pieces of equipment are things I don't get to usually see.”

By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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