|INTEGRATED DEFENSE SYSTEMS|
BY HAL KLOPPER
When U.S. Army Apache Longbows cranked their engines in Antwerp, Belgium, on July 18, the message the whirring blades sent around the world was clear: Apache Longbows were in Europe.
Four days later, all 22 Apache Longbows from 11th Aviation Regiment's 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry, arrived in formation at their new home in Illesheim, Germany. This is the first time the U.S. Army's latest version of the Apachethe Longbowhas been based in Europe.
On hand for the Apache Longbows' arrival in Germany were dozens of relatives of soldiers from the 6-6th who are stationed in Germany. And it was clear from the emotional reunions on the airfield that everyone was glad to be reunited at "home."
Even 6-6th Commander Lt. Col. Michael J. Barbee was caught up in the emotion, hugging his wife and children and pulling the family wagon through the long row of Apache Longbows parked on the tarmac.
Among the 6-6th Apache Longbows were several helicopters that rolled off the Boeing assembly line in Mesa, Ariz., last September. The link to the Sept. 11 tragedies makes sense since the unit's 6-6th soldiers live by the slogan, "Six Shooters: Always ready."
Fielding the first wave of next-generation Apaches to be based in Germany is a part of a continuing effort by the U.S. Army to field and deploy Apache Longbows strategically around the world.
"It's kind of fitting," said Wayne Herron, the Boeing field service rep who is supporting the 6-6th in Germany, "that Apache Longbows produced during the Sept. 11 tragedies should help make history of their own. Apache Longbows are going to be setting the pace around the world for many years to come."
And on the horizon? There will be a transition next year from earlier AH-64A models to Apache Longbows by the 6-6th's sister squadronthe 11th Aviation Regiment's 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalrywhich also operates from Illesheim.
"The Apache Longbow will be the choice of Army aviation for years ahead," Barbee said. "It's great to be on the leading edge.”
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