EAST LYME, Conn. -- Nearly 15 Soldiers assigned to the 1109th Theatre Aviation Sustainment Maintenence Group of Groton, Connecticut, recovered a simulated downed aircraft during a Downed Aircraft Recovery Team mission, conducted at Stones Ranch Military Reservation as a part of their annual training, August 1.
The needs of an aviation maintainer go far beyond the home station hangar doors. A DART mission gives Soldiers the opportunity to exercise the vital skills required to assess, repair, and recover a downed aircraft as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“Response time is crucial and when a unit is not prepared, they could potentially be putting lives at risk, including their own,” Staff Sgt. Daniel Blum, 1109th TASM-G Aircraft Technical Inspector, NCOIC of the DART mission.
The mission at hand was coordinated in a manner that allowed personnel of all Military Occupational Specialties to benefit from the training and apply their respected MOS training to the aid and recovery of the downed aircraft. MOS’s from this specific team included Helicopter Repairer, Aircraft Electrician, Aircraft Structural Repairer, Aircraft Pneudraulics/Hydraulic Repairer, and Avionics Mechanics.
TheUH-60A Blackhawk helicopter sustained simulated damages such as airframe obstruction, flight control cable and wire severances, fuel line damage and leakage, APU start motor damage and more.
The Soldiers were transported from Groton, Connecticut to SRMR via Blackhawk and LMTV, where they conducted the hour-long mission. The team was allotted a reasonable three hours to get the mission completed from start to finish, yet Blum had set high expectations for this team and presumed completion within an hour and a half, which was accomplished.
“The time frame was perfect,” Blum said. “The aircraft was on the ground the length of time I expected, just about an hour and a half.”
The Soldiers for this mission were carefully selected based on rank, MOS, and experience. Blum strategically placed at least one experienced senior NCO with junior enlisted Soldiers of the same MOS with little to no experience on DART missions. Less experienced Soldiers were able to feel the pressure of the task at hand, but had the guidance to enforce accurate performance and productive training.
Pfc. Devin Shorey appreciated the new training and said, “leadership really stepped in to help us. They let us do the work but were there to help if we needed anything.”
Along with learning the basic fundamentals of the DART mission, Soldiers got to experience a little more about aircraft recovery and maintenance outside of the hangar, like the reality of having only a limited number of tools and supplies on hand in the field.
Even with less to work with, Sgt. Dennis Buller, 1109th TASMG Avionics Mechanic, was impressed by the Battle Damage Assessment and Repair kits, and found the variety of MOS specific implements to be sufficient enough to complete most tasks.
“This was a great learning experience. I had never seen the BDAR kits before. They were actually really great but there are going to be times when you come out here and what you need is not going to be in the kit,” Buller said.
A week prior to the training exercise, Blum conducted a classroom lesson as a, “crawl,” stage of the overall mission. The class gave Soldiers basic background information on a DART mission and what they can expect during the “walk” phase to come. As DART is still new to many lower enlisted Soldiers, Blum foresees it becoming a bigger part of their training.
“I hope to do this again in future; whether it be myself as the NCOIC or myself training someone else if we are on home station AT. We always have room to grow and people to train,” Blum said.