US Army, August 03, 2016 - CINCU, Romania By Spc Timothy Jackson - Canadian and U.S. soldiers ran through the tall grass as the blades of nearby UH-60 Blackhawks spun madly. Soldiers new to the aircraft squatted as low to the ground as possible for fear of losing an appendage or worse.
The soldiers were participating in an air assault training mission, which was part of the Saber Guardian Exercise at the Romanian Land Forces Combat Training Center in Cincu, Romania.
For most of the 10 countries and the 2,800 soldiers involved, there are many first-time experiences. Sgt. 1st Class Miguel Camacho, a crew chief and flight platoon sergeant with Company C, 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment from Ft. Bliss, Texas has already had more than his share of new experiences.
A crew chief since 1992 with more than 4,000 hours of flight time, Camacho was there to greet the adrenaline-charged soldiers, wearing a skull-mask reminiscent of Marvel Comics' Ghost Rider.
"Rarely, anything's new now," he said after the Blackhawk landed in the pastoral hills of the Romanian countryside.
With the blank expression of his skull mask off, he flashed a toothy smile, his positive attitude contagious. His job was not just to ensure the safety of passengers, but also to ensure the safety of the aircraft and its crew. He was the flight steward of a flying roller coaster, with a penchant for thrill.
"Until you live it, you won't actually get the experience," Camacho observed. "You can see vehicles on a TV screen or on a PowerPoint slide all you want, and now you're getting exposed to the vehicles that you see on a slide. (In real life) if it's not an Abrams (tank) it might be a T-80, and it's coming at you."
To take cover from enemies in a helicopter, the pilot must perform maneuvers called "masking" and "unmasking," which means staying behind terrain features such as trees, hills and buildings. The dynamic environment comes with the need to constantly wear a headset.
"You can hear all four crew members on the aircraft constantly looking for obstacles, clearing passes, and looking for anything that may cause a danger," Camacho said.
During Camacho's career, the globe seems to have spun beneath his feet as fast as a Blackhawk's spinning rotor. The aircraft has taken him on multiple deployments to the Middle East as well as domestic and foreign training sites.
While Romania may just seem like another dot on the map for him, Camacho's fearlessness when facing new challenges instills the same inspiration in his crew and passengers as the UH-60 Blackhawk in flight.
His vigilance is not just for his role as crew chief, but as a leader of soldiers.