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Army Air Cav keeps Marines, Navy, Air Force flying over Iraq

Feb 25, 2010

By Sgt. Travis Zielinski 1st ACB, 1st CAV DIV, USD-C

AL ASAD, Iraq -- A specialty aircraft repair shop has become a valuable asset for all U.S. military branches operating out of Al Asad.

Providing aviation support for western Iraq, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division-Center, established Task Force 227. The Marines, Navy and Air Force were quick to realize that the task force brought along a group of Soldiers specifically trained in aircraft maintenance practices, which could be used on any aircraft throughout the military.

"There hasn't been any back shop support on all of Al Asad for quite some time and word started to get out that we had guys with [a military occupation specialty] for engines, power train, airframe and hydraulics," said Michael Bedsole, from Humble, Texas, a turbine engine maintainer in Company D, 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB. "People started trickling in one by one and then it kind of became regular - they have been relying on us for the last four months."

During the first repairs, shop personnel had somebody watching over them to make sure the repairs were done correctly. Now, the Navy and the Air Force drop off components to have them fixed, which shows the level of trust that has been established, said Bedsole.

The task force Soldiers recently completed hydraulic repairs and non-destructive inspections on Navy E8-6B Prowler electronic warfare airplanes, Marine CH-46 Sea Knight and CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, along with an airframe repair on an Air Force C-5 Galaxy airplane.

"It helped in just getting to know the guys. We thought the Marines were going to be jerks towards us, which some of them were," said Spc. Ryan Stadelmaier, from Pittsburg, an aircraft hydraulics specialist, Co. D, 4-227th. "Once we started to help them out, it became more of a partnership. We helped them and they helped us."

A mutual respect has formed among the Soldiers of the shops platoon and the other military branches. Certain parts, supplies and amenities that TF 227 did not have were acquired because of the willingness to support others outside the unit, said Bledsoe.

"They would ask us if we wanted to trade for our work and that is how we got electricity just for our office," said Bedsole. "We did some work for the Navy and they came over and wired our shop for us."

One of the first repairs made by the task force was on a C-5 aircraft; a small piece of sheet metal on an engine cowling had started to separate, exposing the engine to the possibility of debris getting inside and causing damage.

"I was actually awoken and told a C-5 aircraft needed to be repaired, and I thought, 'Well, that is not our aircraft,'" said Pfc. Michael Cooley, from Elizabethton, Tenn., an airframe repair specialist.

Cooley explained if the task force did not have the ability to fix the C-5 aircraft, the Air Force would have been forced to delay its mission to Afghanistan and wait for someone to be flown in to make the repair.

"It was a master sergeant that got up to inspect my work and he thought it was great: he was praising my work," said Cooley. "We told him we don't have a problem doing this sort of thing because they are the guys that get us home."

With very few staff, the Army shops team only had time to work on other military aircraft once their own missions were complete, making some days stretch into the seventeenth and eighteenth hour. Essentially, the shops personnel made the effort to help other units on their own time while also gaining experience they wouldn't have normally received.

"We came here just as a task force, thinking that we were going to be working only on our airframes," said Spc. Ryan Stadelmaier. "Since day one, it has been a great experience being able to get hands on with aircraft from the other branches."

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