SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
On June 12, members of 1-228th Aviation Regiment Alpha Company trained junior pilots here on a scenario were a covert team is flown to the Island of Utila to counter a transnational organized crime syndicate. While the covert team was actively engaged on their mission, Alpha Company would fly to the Island of Roatan, refuel and wait for the special operators to contact them.
"They were given the concept of operations at the beginning of the week and by week's end it was completed," said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 L.J. Failes, 1-228 ARAC, standardization pilot. "It starts with a conop, which is when the pilots are given the mission. Once this occurs, the pilots can divide the mission and begin the planning stage."
For Instance, one pilot may create the primary and alternate routes while ensuring they have enough fuel for either contingency," said the Chicago native. "The second pilot then coordinates where they can refuel and how many aircraft will be needed. Once it was time to fly, the pilots had their mission planned and were ready for any contingency."
The pilots would then brief the details to aircrew and prepare for the mission as they would fly two Utility Helicopter-60 Blackhawks (UH-60s) and one Cargo Helicopter-47 (Chinook) through the mountains of Honduras, over the Caribbean Sea to the Island of Utila; simulate unloading the covert team, then fly to the Island of Roatan to refuel, and lastly go back to Utila to extract the team, and return home.
"My experience with flying was mostly at Fort Rucker, AL., where it was mostly a flat terrain and now I'm flying over mountains and Caribbean Sea," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Martha Hugo,a 1-228 ARAC, UH-60 Blackhawk pilot and Rhode Island native. "When someone is flying over water they must refer to their instruments or they can lose their reference points and become spaciously disoriented. This training has helped me feel more comfortable and confident with the aircraft."
While flying over the crystal blue water of the Caribbean, the pilots held a course of 200 feet above the sea and coasted at speeds of more than 120 miles per hour.
"When it comes to missions it has to be thorough because you may have to contend with weather or other scenarios to ensure the missions success," said Failes. "The whole purpose was for the pilots to go from the concept of operations, through the mission planning stage, perform the air mission, then debrief the crew, and I think they did a phenomenal job."