Copter crews, engineers dominate latest deployment to Gulf region
HEIDELBERG, Germany — Attack helicopter crews and engineers make up much of the 2,300 troops tapped over the weekend for service in the Persian Gulf region.
Aviation troops from the 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment — based in Illesheim — were among 1,300 soldiers to get deployment orders, V Corps officials announced Monday. The 54th Engineer Battalion from Bamberg also got orders, said Capt. Tom Bryant, a V Corps spokesman.
About 1,000 troops in Europe got the word on Saturday. In all, more than 3,600 V Corps soldiers are either in Kuwait or heading eastward for a possible showdown with Iraq.
The aviation squadron is equipped with 21 AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters — armed with the latest in attack aviation technology, said Col. Bill Wolf, 11th Aviation Regiment commander.
For the first time, the Army is sending an entire squadron of Longbows into Southwest Asia, just six months after they were fielded in Europe. The squadron, known as the “Six Shooters,” is under the command of Lt. Col Michael Barbee.
Crews from the 6th Squadron were at gunnery training at Grafenwöher when they got the word, Wolf said.
Squadron aviators spent a year qualifying with the new helicopters before arriving in Germany late this summer, Wolf said. In October, the squadron’s Longbows took part in combat training in Poland during Victory Strike exercises, he said. A Longbow crew fights from a fully digitized cockpit that includes a radar-guided weapons system, Wolf said.
“They (crews) are absolutely ready,” Wolf said. “It’s a phenomenal machine.”
Keeping troops and their families informed is one of Wolf’s highest priorities during a major call-up, he said. Over the weekend, aviation troops had initial deployment briefings. On Tuesday, family briefings are scheduled, Wolf said.
Within the next few weeks, the squadron’s crews will load helicopters onto trains for transfer to a port for shipping into the Persian Gulf region.
For security reasons, Army officials do not discuss specifically where deployed troops will be based. Most of the time, Army spokesmen say troops are destined for the Persian Gulf region or the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
“They’re not all going to the same spot,” Bryant said. “They are going to various places.”
The buildup of U.S. troops from Europe has been slow but steady in recent months.
In October, the 11th Aviation Regiment deployed a task force to Kuwait built around the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment. The unit is still deployed in the region to support training missions. Both helicopter units remain under regimental control while deployed, Wolf said.
In November, about 450 V Corps troops set up the corps’ tactical command post in Kuwait for Internal Look, a CENTCOM exercise. Over the holidays, about 100 V Corps soldiers kept watch over V Corps equipment that remained in Kuwait. Soldiers are rotating through that duty now, officials said.
On New Year’s Eve, about 800 V Corps troops got the nod to move out, to include the 94th Engineer Battalion in Vilseck, and the 578th Signal Company from Darmstadt.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed a set of orders Friday evening.
By Saturday, helicopter crews from the 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment got word to deploy along with troops from the 159th Aviation Regiment. The units, both under the 12th Aviation Brigade based in Giebelstadt will deploy with about 20 aircraft, and equal mix of UH-60 Black Hawks and CH-47 Chinooks, Bryant said.
On the same orders, V Corps tapped the 17th Signal Battalion based in Kitzingen and military police officers in Giessen from 18th Military Police Brigade, Bryant said.