PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti –
An aircrew from 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, conducted their first rotary airlift mission March 24 here in support of Joint Task Force-Haiti.
The 1/228th along with other members from Joint Task Force-Bravo deployed from Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras March 21.
"We are excited about getting in the air and doing our part," said Lt. Col. Salome Herrera, commander, 1/228th. "We've been working non-stop from building a landing zone, setting up a maintenance area and standing up a command and control element... it's nice to finally see it pay off."
The unit travel nearly 3 hours via C-17 Globemaster III along with three of their aircraft. Once on the ground everyone pitched in to unfold the UH-60 Blackhawk so they could begin flight testing them.
"The only time we fold or unfold blades on a UH-60, is when we deploy...and for a lot of our guys this is their first deployment with an aviation unit," said Herrera. "So it is a great opportunity for our people to perform these tasks in a real world environment."
While maintainers were still making the final adjustment to their Blackhawks, support elements began establishing a base of operation, setting up communication equipment, computers and weather observation equipment.
Meanwhile JTF-Bravo pilots and aircrews were getting briefed by their Navy counterparts who will transition out as JTF-Bravo takes over as primary rotary lift capability for JTF-Haiti.
"This has been a total force effort on the part of our servicemembers," said Lt. Col. Michael Manion, officer in-charge, Task Force Talon. "Everyone has pitched in...they have a group focus and we want to continue that attitude through our time here."
On the second full day pilots and aircrew conducted familiarization flights to learn the lay of the land and to review the landing zones spread out across Haiti.
Everyday new improvements are made to what was once just a grassy knoll at Toussaint Louverture International Airport.
"We still have improvement to make to our facilities but we've worked hard to get it this far," said Manion. "We have an area where our maintainers can work in the shade, our pilots and aircrew have a briefing room and our people are now looking ahead at how we can execute our mission better each time."
Joint Task Force-Haiti is the U.S. military's task force assisting in disaster relief efforts in Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake as part of Operation Unified Response.