78th Aviation Battalion
The mission of the 78th Aviation Battalion is to conduct general support aviation operations in support of United States Army Japan/I Corps (Forward) and other US services and agencies. The Battalion would, on order, deploy in support of regional contingencies, joint/bilateral exercises, and stability and support operations.
The 78th Aviation Battalion located at Camp Zama, Japan originated in Yokohama as part of a small flight detachment of Army Forces Far East in January 1953. The unit was known as the US Army Aviation Detachment, Japan until 1986 when it was redesignated as 78th Aviation Battalion (Provisional). The crewmembers of this unit were well experienced and diversified with previous assignments covering the globe from Europe, to Central America, North America, Asia, to the Middle East. Combat experience included campaigns in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Desert Storm, Somalia, and Bosnia.
The 78th Aviation Battalion was self supporting with its own instructor pilots, instrument examiners, and maintenance test pilots. An operational air traffic control tower controlled Kastner Army Airfield at Camp Zama, as well as landing sites throughout the Kanto Plain. A Company was the flight company and supported a wide variety of missions. D Company provided unit and intermediate level maintenance on the aircraft, as well as limited depot level maintenance with DynCorp contractors. The Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment provided airfield support services, such as flight operations, POL, ATC, and airfield maintenance.
Soldiers assigned to the only Army aviation element in Japan, the 78th Aviation Battalion, flew missions across the island and elsewhere in the Pacific Theater. The unit had fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and was the only Army unit in the Pacific that had jets. One C-12 and 2 UC-35s were attached from the Korea-based 17th Aviation Brigade to round out the outfit. UH-60 Blackhawks were the only Army helicopters permanently based in Japan. Should other types be needed, they would come from Hawaii, Alaska or Korea. It was a small battalion with only 100 people, compared to an attack battalion that typically had 250. Yet the unit supported all US Army Japan (USARJ) elements, and others within the Defense Department as tasked by USARJ.
The primary mission of the 78th Aviation Battalion was to provide aviation support to United States Army Japan and all US Forces in Japan. The unit theater of operations was Southeast Asia, to include Philippines, Guam, the Republic of Korea, and Okinawa. This was accomplished with 6 UH-60 Blackhawks, 2 UC-35 airplanes, and one C-12J airplane. The C-12 and UC-35 aircraft provided operational support aircraft support for Japan, Okinawa, Korea, and the Asian Pacific Theater. The UH-60 aircraft provided operational support aircraft and mission support for Japan, and limited support for Okinawa. While flying a variety of aircraft, the unit provided routine passenger transportation, disaster relief, cargo, and patient transfer as it did over 40 years ago when it started as that small flight detachment in Yokohama.
The daily support mission included: Supporting bilateral engagement; providing tactical rotary wing support to combat forces training in Japan; providing Army aviation administration and medical transportation support to USARJ, and other military services, agencies, and DOD activities; providing Aviation Unit and Intermediate Maintenance (AVUM/AVIM) support for all Army aircraft in Japan as outlined by Army Regulation 750-1; commanding Kastner Army Airfield, providing the base operations control tower, and being responsible for aircraft maintenance, fueling, crash rescue, search/rescue, unit security, and firefighting operations; and providing fixed-wing operational support airlift in Western Asia.
The Battalion also supported air-assault operations, inserting and extracting US soldiers and marines stationed on Okinawa and in the Philippines; and supported special forces operations. Should there be casualties as a result of medical emergency or natural disaster, the 78th Aviation Battalion would transport patients. While the unit was not a medical assistance to safety and traffic unit that primarily transports soldiers and family members facing medical emergencies, it did perform urgent transports. Two flight crews were on 12-hour rotating shifts to ensure emergency transportation was always available.