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NEWS | March 4, 2013

The 2-210th Aviation Regiment: 'Guardians' lead the way in Army aviation maintenance

By Senior Airman Jason J. Brown 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Evolution is key to survival. Advances in technology move civilization forward, ushering in better ways to live, work, play - and fight. New technologies improve a nation's capabilities on the battlefield.

Success in modern warfare hinges on not only what happens on the battlefield, but above it as well. The U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 210th Aviation Regiment at Fort Eustis, Va., is working around the clock to improve the Army's aviation expertise, training Soldiers to maintain its fleet of helicopters using cutting-edge, sophisticated technologies.

One of three battalions subordinate to the 128th Aviation Brigade, the 2-210th Avn. Rgt., known as the "Guardians," is responsible for Advanced Individual Training, noncommissioned officer advanced courses, warrant officer maintenance training, and Spanish-language courses for the Army's corps of CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter maintainers.

The battalion is divided into three companies, each owning a specialized training role. A Company provides maintenance training for the CH-47 platform, and is where all enlisted Soldiers in the 15U Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS, learn their trade. Additionally, 151A warrant officers and 15K NCOs are trained to become production control officers and NCOs at the company.

B Co. owns the largest aviation maintenance training mission in the Army, as it is responsible for the training of UH-60 Black Hawk mechanics. Joe Shabbott, deputy to the battalion commander, said the Black Hawk is the Army's "most prevalent aircraft." Much like A Co., B Co. also trains warrant officers and NCOs in management-level courses specific to their airframe.

Though a majority of the battalion's students are enlisted Soldiers, B Co.'s Interservice Training Review Organization provides H-60 training to approximately 115 U.S. Air Force Airmen in the 2A5X2 Air Force Specialty Code each year.

The third company, C Co., is colloquially known as "shops training." C Co. trains Soldiers to perform field and sustainment maintenance on multiple airframes, as well as supervisory and management courses to NCOs and warrant officers.

C Co. differs from its sister companies as it also provides various engine maintenance, powertrain maintenance, fabrication and structural repair, and other specific training courses for a variety of aircraft, including the UH-60, CH-47, AH-64 Apache, and OH-58 Kiowa Warrior.

In addition, C Co. also provides Spanish-language maintenance training to personnel from eight allied nation forces, with most of the students hailing from Colombia and Mexico.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. William Cristy, the battalion commander, said his unit is ramping up training to accommodate the demand for aviation mechanics to fill positions at the newly-formed 4th Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Carson, Colo., as well as replacing Soldiers who separate. The battalion plans to train more than 4,000 Soldiers in 2013.

"With all the discussions about the military adjusting their size, aviation is one of the few branches not getting smaller," he said. "There's a growing emphasis on aviation in the modern Army because of how effective and efficient it is. We save a lot of time and a lot of lives."

That effectiveness begins with efficient training, which is accomplished using a number of technologically-advanced training devices and experienced instructors. A Co. operates 18 Chinook training devices, while B Co. uses 43 trainers. C Co. consists of various workstations, featuring aircraft components and computers, that trainees progress through in a predetermined order, a method known as "committee-based learning."

Students begin their training in the classroom, learning proper safety procedures and maintenance fundamentals. They then move into using virtual-immersive trainers, in which instructors can input faults or deficiencies via computer into specially-outfitted helicopter mockups.

Students find, identify and repair the problems, all without ever laying a hand on an aircraft bound for service. Ultimately, students spend 74 percent of their training with hands-on devices.

Cristy said the training tools allow instructors to teach students in a way that complements the tech-savvy leanings of younger generations, while preserving the service life of the Army's fleet.

"Computers reinforce what they learn in the classroom, and it's less wear and tear on our hardware. Soldiers are much more familiar with automation than I was at that point in my career. At my first unit, we had two computers in a unit with 100 people. Now everyone has one," Cristy said. "It's a way to associate an environment they're comfortable with to what they're about to undertake, because at the end of the day, they're going to be getting on helicopters, turning wrenches and keeping aircraft airborne."

Technology makes training more accessible for younger Soldiers, but the battalion's NCOs and civilian instructors truly drive the process of creating capable Army mechanics. Cristy said the unit is carrying on a long history of training highly-skilled maintainers, and it's due to the leaders that their success is continued.

"If you walk around the battalion and look, you'll see only five officers, but you'll find 62 civilians and 250 NCOs. It's an NCO-driven organization," the commander explained. "This is the home of Army aviation maintenance. It is the NCOs that take these young Americans who know how to march, fire a rifle and stand before an NCO, and they turn them into mechanics. It's an amazing transformation.

"Our track record speaks for itself going back through the Korean War - the Army doesn't suffer many accidents as result of poor maintenance," he added. "What they train here are really good mechanics. You really don't appreciate their training until you see it in the field."

Capt. Chris Quinlan, the A Co. commander, and Capt. Justin Koenig, the B Co. commander, both said they are continually impressed by the scope and quality of training carried out under their command.

"I had no idea [the maintainers] received this level of training before I assumed command," said Quinlan, who previously served as an Army aviator. "I always respected the work they did, but seeing how hard they train to get to that level, I respect them even more so now."

The Soldiers who pass through the 2-210th Avn. Rgt. represent some of the finest citizens in the nation, Cristy said. His command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Thom, said NCOs instill the Army's core values in new Soldiers upon arrival, reminding them not only of the importance of professionalism, but also that they are the face of Army aviation.

The commander said their professionalism is easy to see.

"Go downrange with these guys when they graduate from here. They're out during single-digit temperatures in the snow turning wrenches. They're out in the hottest places on earth, in 130-degree weather with the sun beating down on the tarmac while they're on a helicopter that's just radiating heat," Cristy said. "But every day they keep going out there to get their job done because they understand how important it is. It's amazing to see the determination that comes out of this school.

"You talk about the future of America and whether it's in good hands or not, and then you see what these Soldiers do and it kind of makes you feel warm and fuzzy about our future because there are still great Americans out there, and a lot of them come through these doors."