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1-150th General Aviation Support Battalion
1st Battalion - 150th Aviation Regiment (Attack)

The 1-150th Aviation was an Attack Helicopter Battalion. The Battalion was equipped with AH-1 Cobra helicopters and is based at Trenton-Mercer Airport, Mercer County, NJ. Cobra gunships provided aerial fire support and tank killing capability to the 29th Light Infantry Division. The unit trains trains at Fort Dix and Fort A.P. Hill, VA.

In 1997, the 150th participated in annual training with the 29th Division in the first consolidated aviation brigade exercise since the battalion's alignment with the 29th Infantry Division (light). Two companies conducted annual training at WAATS, Ariz. They trained in TOW gunnery, aerial attacks and aircrew coordination. The battalion also participated in a live fire air assault exercise that meshed attack, reconnaissance and lift aviation, infantry artillery and USAF close-air support. All aviation units in the command passed the 1997 Aviation Resource Management (ARMS) inspection.

In 1998, the 150th participated in annual training with its wartime higher headquarters - the 29th Infantry Division - in a consolidated tactical exercise at Forts A.P. Hill and Pickett, VA. The battalion prepared for the exercise by conducting a Command Post Exercise at Fort Rucker, AL, on the AIRNET computer system. Exercise events included several multiunit combined arms operations and ranged from aerial gunnery and air assault to task force operations and live-fire scenarios.

The unit also conducted in 1998 simultaneous annual training at Fort Dix for two attack helicopter companies which included Company D (Aviation Maintenance) and elements of Headquarters Company. Training emphasis was on Aerial Gunnery Qualification for aviators, Night Driver Training, Aircraft Maintenance, and Aviation Support Operations. Company A participated in a brigade task force level live-fire air assault exercise which combined attack, reconnaissance, lift aviation, infantry, artillery and Air Force close air support.

In 1999, the 1st Battalion, 150th Aviation passed another year without an aircraft accident or significant ground accident or mishap, was the recipient of the Brig. Gen. Reith Commander's Cup for outstanding recruiting, attendance and retention for the second consecutive year, sent a task force to Arkansas in support of the Department of Defense Counterdrug Joint Task Force Six, conducted aerial reconnaissance missions in support of the U.S. Forest Service Marijuana Eradication operations, was selected for the second consecutive year as the winner of the Troop Command Supply Excellence Award, and contributed to disaster relief efforts during Hurricane Floyd. In Lodi the battalion performed direct rescues of stranded citizens; then, in Manville assisted in recovery of essential services, provided 24-hour security and coordinated and delivered supplies to citizen's homes, and passed the First U.S. Army Aviation Resource Management Survey. Individual aviator evaluation results surpassed the Army average by nearly 30 percent.

According to some sources, the 1st Battalion, 150th Aviation Regiment in Trenton, New Jersey was to be re-equipped with AH-64 Apache helicopters, and re-flagged as the 5th Squadron, 117th Cavalry Regiment and relocate to Lakehurst NWS.

On 07 September 2001, the Army announced a significant acceleration of the Aviation Modernization Plan. This acceleration advances the retirement of aging aircraft and reduces the number of helicopters in the active and Reserve components. By the end of 2004, there will no longer be AH-1 Cobras in the Army; by that date, the Army's operational helicopter fleet will contain only AH-64 Apaches. By the end of 2002, attack helicopter battalions in heavy divisions will be restructured from 24 to 18 AH-64 Apaches. Corps level attack battalions will be converted from 24 to a maximum of 21 aircraft. This unit is one of six Army National Guard battalions that will convert from the AH-1 Cobra to the AH-64 Apache under this plan.

The 150th General Aviation Support Battalion deployed UH-1 Huey and OH-58 Kiowa helicopters when it participated in the recovery operations following the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

From 13 January through 08 May 2003, the 1-150th deployed three UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters and 60 Guardsmen for Operation New Horizons 03, Joint Task Force Chiriqui. The mission of Joint Task Force Chiriqui, named after the Republic of Panama province the base was set up in, was to construct schools and clinics and practice medicine to benefit the villagers in the remote mountain region.

The big test came almost immediately upon the 150th's arrival. With just nine days in country, the Battalion was being sent to an area where right-wing Columbian rebels had driven hundreds of people out of their village. On Jan. 22, the New Jersey Guardsmen were told at the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) that the Panamanian Government had requested humanitarian airlift support. Right-wing Colombian rebels had crossed into the Darien Province of Panama and killed four suspected FARC (antiColumbian government) supporters in the border village of Paya. In addition, the Colombian rebels seized all of the village's livestock and foodstuffs before making their way back across the border. The remaining residents of Paya - approximately 500 - fled to the nearby village of Boca de Cupe putting an immediate strain on the town's ability to house and feed them.

" Upon leaving the ODC we understood that the request was at the State Department for validation," stated 1st Lt. Joseph Roughneen, Detachment Commander. "The mission would call for two Blackhawks to depart at dawn the very next day." Two Blackhawks would depart Howard Air Base for the refueling point in Meteti at 9:15 a.m. Jan. 23 carrying a sling load of four 2- ton truck tires, to be left at Yaviza. Additionally, 10 boxes of MREs would also be transported to Boca de Cupe.

Naturally once an operation gets started not everything goes according to schedule. First, the aircraft were delayed so that the Panamanian press photographers and videographers could capture the departure of the Blackhawks with the Panamanian officials onboard.

" We arrived at Meteti and found the helipad too small for a UH-60. Then after we landed we found that their fuel hose was too short to reach the fuel receiver on the opposite side of the aircraft," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jim denHartog, UH-60A and standardization/instructor pilot. Aviation personnel carefully ground-guided the aircrew to position the aircraft as close as possible to the refueling station. The combination of the short refueling hose and the slow process of gravity refueling delayed the mission's departure from Meteti considerably.

" Once both aircraft were refueled we followed the Pan- American Highway as briefed," said 1st Lt. Roughneen. " Upon arrival at Yaviza, we delivered the sling load of truck tires without incident." From Yaviza both helicopters continued to Boca de Cupe. Following a recon and assessment of the landing zone (a large soccer field) both helicopters landed and discharged their passengers. " We then proceeded back to Yaviza in order to commence the load-up and resupply sorties," said 1st Lt. Roughneen. "Each aircraft performed three sorties, successfully transporting more than 16,000 pounds of food and equipment. Following the final drop-off we uploaded our original passengers and flew back to Meteti for refueling."

The success of the Darien airlift mission and the entire deployment rests on the teamwork between maintenance and supply. "They are the nuts and bolts that make the wheel turn," stated 1st Lt. Roughneen. "Without them, this mission would never have succeeded."

Afterwords the rest of the deployment went smoothly. Aviation support allowed the physicians to treat hundreds of patients, while the engineers constructed three schools, three medical clinics and three latrines. Maintenance personnel enabled the Aviation unit to execute more than 541 accident free flight hours in less than 100 days, while maintaining an operational readiness of more than 90 percent. In addition, the 150th troops made friends with area villagers who brought their children out to the base for school field trips.

After Joint Task Force Chiriqui wound down, the base camp was taken apart and transported back to Howard Air Base. The helicopters and other equipment was taken to Port Christobal where the aircraft were once again shrink-wrapped and loaded aboard a cargo ship for the two-month return trip to the Port of Philadelphia.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:17:18 ZULU