SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
U.S. Army pilots assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo completed their annual deck landing qualifications for the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters aboard the USS Kauffman.
"The goal of achieving and maintaining deck landing qualifications is to ensure flight crews mission ready to support any humanitarian assistance or disaster relief operations," said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jose Avendano, pilot assigned to the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment. "This qualification will also prepare us to assist our allied countries in any overwater drug interdiction operations, if ever asked."
The training took place off the Honduran coast to qualify 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment pilots and crew chiefs on shipboard operations.
"It's important for us to maintain deck landing qualifications because it familiarizes us with shipboard operations and helps us strengthen our working relationship with our sister services," added Avendano. "Without this qualification training we would not be allowed to land our aircraft on a naval ship, which could be detrimental to us fulfilling U.S. Southern Commands priorities."
The certification consisted of flight deck landings and liftoff maneuvers with the crew of the Kauffman assisting with signaling, wheel chocks and securing the aircraft to the deck with chains.
"The biggest challenge we faced was the weather," said Avendano. "We needed to ensure we scheduled our qualifications with the Kauffman during optimal weather to guarantee the safety of our crew. We wanted to avoid excessive pitching and rolling of the flight deck during qualifications."
Twenty-three crew members completed 35 consecutive bounces; which included landings, liftoffs, circling then repeating the process. It takes approximately 30 minutes for each pilot to complete the deck-landing qualification.
"By completing and maintaining deck landing qualifications, we are now able to provide a wider array of assistance throughout the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility," added Avendano. "We can now be considered a force multiplier for our region. By achieving these qualifications operate in a greater variety of environmental settings which will increase our ability to respond to humanitarian assistance or disaster relief missions or drug interdiction operations."
The Kauffman is on its final scheduled deployment to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility supporting multinational, counter-narcotics operation known as Operation Martillo.
Operation Martillo is a U.S., European, and Western Hemisphere effort targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus. U.S. military participation is led by Joint Interagency Task Force South, a component of U.S. Southern Command.
JTF-Bravo supports U.S. interests in Central America through regional cooperative security, supporting counter-drug strategy, exercising combined forces, disaster relief as well as humanitarian and civic assistance.