JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
A combination of patterned uniforms cut through the humid air as they climb about the frames and rotors lined up in one of the many hangars that make up the 128th Aviation Brigade. The constant drone of industrial fans fills the room while service members buzz around the floor, notebooks in hand and on their way to become masters of their airframe.
This will be home for a small group of U.S. Air Force Airmen for nearly four months as they work alongside U.S. Army Soldiers in Advanced Individual Training to learn the ins and outs of the UH-60 (Blackhawk) Helicopter at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
“When people think of helicopters, they think of Army aviation not Air Force aviation,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Harvey Gonzales, Detachment 1, 362nd Training Squadron UH-60 Helicopter Repairer course instructor. “People think of jets when they think of the Air Force and they don’t expect us to have helicopters. Even Airmen at Langley don’t know we have an aviation tech school here at Fort Eustis.”
Gonzales explained that while the size of the Air Force helicopter maintenance career field may be finite by comparison, with their skills only applicable at five bases throughout the entire Air Force, their mission proves to be substantial and invaluable.
“These Airmen will go on to support Air Force combat search and rescue missions,” Gonzales said. “They will learn the basics of the UH-60 helicopter while they are here training with Soldiers and when they move on to their permanent duty stations they will learn the specifics of the [Air Force’s] HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.”
According to Gonzales, Air Force helicopter maintainers get the unique experience of training and studying with Soldiers which can foster lasting working relationships and bring a sense of familiarity through shared qualifications in deployed environments.
“We have already built a relationship by the time we graduate so when we’re down range if we ever need parts or help with anything, we know we can just go ask and they’ll step up.” Gonzales added. “Usually when we deploy we’re working side by side with Soldiers so it’s nice that we get to learn how our sister service works when we’re here at school.”
While studying at Fort Eustis, the Airmen will also learn the Army’s customs and courtesies, as well as participate in physical training with fellow AIT Soldiers.
“It’s awesome that we get to build this comradery and make fun of each other a lot, all in good fun of course,” said Airman 1st Class Ryan Chapman, Detachment 1, 362nd Training Squadron student. “We get to know these Soldiers and really see that we’re all here to serve our country and fight the same fight.”
After spending weeks learning how the dual branches operate, the Airmen will sing the Air Force song, the Army song and recite both service creeds during their graduation ceremony in a show of gratitude and respect for their sister service.