Tulsa's Black Hawk Helicopter Crews Heading To Iraq

Tuesday, October 6th 2009, 8:02 am
By: News On 6

By Rich Lenz, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- There will be a formation of Black Hawk helicopters flying over downtown Tulsa late Tuesday morning. 

The Black Hawk helicopters are part of "B Company of the 2nd of the 285th" National Guard aerial assault group.  The helicopters and crews are heading to Fort Sill and eventually to Iraq. 

These soldiers have been busy loading ammunition, checking rotors, sharpening their shooting skills, all in preparation for the call to duty. 

"Citizen soldier is exactly what they are, you know, they do their civilian job day in and day out, they train with us one weekend a month, two weeks out of the year and then their deployment comes down and they put down their trowel or whatever it is and they come with us," said Captain Phil Hemmert, Oklahoma Army National Guard. 

Company B, of the 2nd of the 285th, is comprised of 80 men and women.

10/5/2009 Related story: Oklahoma Army National Guard Black Hawks Headed To Iraq

Later this week, they will leave Camp Gruber near Muskogee; reassemble at Fort Sill and eventually board transport planes to begin a year-long mission in Iraq. 

Last month, The News On 6 visited Camp Gruber as the Black Hawks and their crews were getting ready to take off and practice aerial gunnery. 

Aerial gunnery is the essence of what this mission in Iraq is all about. 

"This is really one of the capstone events for an aerial assault company, the aerial gunnery piece, its critical to our mission, its critical to what we do, it's fast, it's got a lot of adrenaline to it, a lot of action," said Captain Phil Hemmert. 

"We have a minimum crew of four and all four are equally important no matter what position you're in, you have two pilots and two gunners in the back. Obviously, I think the gunners are the most important because they're out there looking for the bad guys who are trying to shoot us and they're going to return any effective fire that we receive, so they're going to protect our skin," said Chief Will Kavanagh, veteran Black Hawk pilot. 

It is dangerous work, in training or in actual combat and that's something those of us who only try on the gear for fun, should never forget.  

"You're going to put your life on hold for a year to go out. You're going to miss a year of your kids growing up, whatever, a football season, whatever it is, but, you're making that sacrifice to go, and the train up that goes into it, I mean, we're still stateside right now, but we're away from our families and those ones that we love right now, training up to perform our mission," Captain Phil Hemmert said. 

Rich Lenz would like to thank the Army National Guard for providing aerial video of the Black Hawks in action.  The audio is courtesy of LiveLeak.com.