US Army, June 09, 2014 - WASHINGTON by George Markfelder - The skies over the Nation's Capital were filled with helicopters as the U.S. Army Military District of Washington's Army Air Operations Group, 12th Aviation Battalion flew its entire inventory of aircraft one last time together during a training exercise held June 4, 2014.
The exercise was the 12th's final flight, with its current aircraft configuration before the UH-72 (Lakota) and VH-60A (black and gold Black Hawks) will be redistributed to Fort Rucker, Ala. and the Army Museum. The redistributed aircraft will be replaced with UH-60Ls (Black Hawks).
"As part of the Army Aviation Restructuring Initiative, the Lakotas' will be used as training aircraft, and we are replacing them with the UH-60L Black Hawks," said Capt. Brian T. Billingsley, commander of Bravo Company, 12th Aviation Battalion, headquartered at Davison Army Airfield, Fort Belvoir, Va. "Today's flight provides our crews and pilots a great opportunity to gain experience flying a large number of aircraft at once."
The one-hour training flight, consisting of seven Lakotas and 17 VH-60A Black Hawks, was a test of the 12th Aviation's readiness to plan and execute a multi-ship operation with a mixture of aircraft. The flight began at Davison Army Airfield and followed the FAA approved D.C. helicopter route that includes the Potomac River, Fort Washington, Haines Point, the Tidal Basin, Cabin John, along the I-95 Greenbelt corridor and south of Andrews Air Force Base.
"We usually fly much smaller numbers of aircraft at any one time, so today will give our pilots and planners a great opportunity in carrying out a mission with so many aircraft flying at the same time," said Sgt. Joseph A. Giordano, Bravo Company crew chief and training non-commissioned officer. "Getting all our aircraft ready for today's flight also tested our maintenance crews as well."
The 12th Aviation Battalion, Air Operations Group, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR) and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, is comprised of three helicopter companies, a helicopter-maintenance company, a headquarters company, and the 911th U.S. Army Technical Rescue Engineer Company.
"It's not every day that you can have the privilege to fly low over Washington D.C., in a helicopter," said Sgt. James A. Brown, 12th Aviation Battalion helicopter crew chief. "I help move rescue teams, military police or infantry in 20 minutes that would normally take two hours on the ground. If I could sum up my job in one word, it would be satisfaction. I love what I do."
The 12th Aviation Battalion is responsible for providing aviation support to the Military District of Washington, federal agencies and technical rescue support within the National Capital Region. Due to these requirements and other missions, the battalion must remain trained and ready to support anywhere within the region.
"Aviation is the best job in the Army," said Sgt. 1st. Class James R. Stephens, from Ely, Minn., and Bravo Company Platoon Sgt. "The duty stations and the things you see are amazing. I've been able to fly in Germany, Okinawa, Japan and Thailand to name a few but to fly and land on the grass at the Pentagon and fly around the monuments is special, it definitely is a great job."