Nevada Guard prepares Canadian aviators for deployment
Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
Reprinted with Permission from Defence Helicopter
Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
RENO, Nev., - Soldiers from the Nevada Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 189th Aviation Regiment trained here this week with pilots and air crews from the Canadian air force to prepare them for an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
Called the Canadian Seasoning Program, the goal is to give the Canadian CH-47 Chinook helicopter pilots added time in the cockpit and experience flying mission sets they may encounter overseas.
"They're here for two weeks and the goal is to get 12 hours [flying time] per pilot," said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Sean Laycox, aviation standardization officer for the Nevada Army National Guard, who organized and planned much of the training.
Training with the Nevada soldiers was a necessity for the Canadian aviators, because all of their Chinooks are currently deployed to Afghanistan.
"We don't have any in Canada, so we come down a couple of times each year for pre-deployment training on the American Chinook and to gain from the expertise of the American Army as well," said Capt. Jon Sarawanski of Canada's 408th Tactical Helicopter Squadron.
Training in Reno has many benefits for the aviators.
"Being here in Reno is advantageous, because it's more of a desert environment similar to Afghanistan," said Sarawanski, who has deployed previously to Afghanistan. "Afghanistan is really dusty, so, it's really good training for us, because up in Canada we don't have a training area like this."
Much of the training was geared specifically to the terrain and flying done in Afghanistan.
"We started off with days, and [training on] dust landings is something they wanted," said Laycox. "Basically what we've done with them is just a lot of high-altitude training, dust landings both with loads and without loads, a lot of flying in confined areas and along pinnacles and ridgelines and stuff they're going to need for Afghanistan."
The training also included participating in a real-world mission recovering wreckage of a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet from a previous crash site at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev.
"We took two Chinooks out," said Laycox. "It was two different sites, and I think we ended up with 16 or 17 external loads. We did what we could to help clean up the site."
Recovering the wreckage gave the aviators some real-world training.
"It's interesting, because we don't really know what to expect," said Sarawanski. "All we (had was) basically the location of the crash site and the different parts and pieces we were going to be lifting. A lot of the loads are actually not very heavy so for the Chinook it [was] an easy job to do."
And while the recovery mission added to the experience, just flying the aircraft was the best part of the training, said Sarawanski.
"I wouldn't have switched over to flying the Chinook if I didn't love the aircraft," he said. "You have to look at it from a pilot's perspective. You want to fly the biggest, baddest thing out there and the Chinook definitely is. It's loud. It's abrupt. A lot of guys will joke that a helicopter doesn't actually fly it beats the Earth into submission and the Chinook does it better than any other aircraft."
And for Laycox, it comes back to the training program itself.
"It's a good training program for Nevada," said Laycox. "It allows us to show what kind of training area we have here, which I think is second to none, and what quality people we have."