Fort Sill_At Fort Sill, Operation Mongoose is a training mission for the Delta Schooners of the California Army National Guard, and the soldiers from B-Company, First Battalion, 126th Regiment fly Chinook helicopters during their training. The soldiers are soon to be deployed to Afghanistan to fly the helicopters, which will transport soldiers and supplies as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Thursday's training was about instructing the chopper pilots on how to search and clear individual houses - which they may soon have to do. US soldiers play the role of opposition forces occupying a model house, waiting and watching, as Chinook helicopters fly by to drop off soldiers.
Captain Emil Popov says the helicopters can fly over two miles high. "It's a powerful and big aircraft that can carry lots of weight, lots of supplies, lots of soldiers, to higher altitudes and can do things that other helicopters just can't do in terms of work," he says. The helicopters will fly with Apaches - attack helicopters - that escort Chinooks into more dangerous locations.
Soldiers practiced with some Apaches, learning to coordinate airspace and landings. "[We're] working with them in terms of logistics, and learning the capabilities of their aircraft, and them learning the capabilities of our aircraft - it's come together very well," says Popov. This particular unit is deploying to serve as maintenance crews to take care of Chinooks that are already in Afghanistan. They also learned about maintenance issues at the training mission. "[They] work in hypothetical scenarios where an aircraft is either shot down or has to land in enemy territory for maintenance issues," he says.
Chinook crews learned on the ground, too. They worked with a battalion from Fort Sill to practice combat on the ground - it's an exercise that's a little bit different for them since they usually work with Patriot Missles. "A lot of these units are being called out to non-traditional missions," says Captain Chike Robertson. "So, you never know when a unit may be called to do something outside of its core competencies."
Many of the soldiers have been in the Army fewer than two years, and for some of them this was their first evacuation mission. The Chinooks flew over Lawton and practiced resupply missions taking supplies plus soldiers on longer flights around the surrounding area.