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Story by: Sgt 1st Class Steven Petibone - 42nd Combat Aviation Bde.
Dated: Fri, Jan 23, 2009
ROCHESTER NY (01/23/2009)-- The need for hands-on training on CH-47 Chinook helicopters brought Canadian Air Force aircrews heading to Afghanistan to the New York Army National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility #2 here first.
Aviation Soldiers from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation, who returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan in April 2008, used their Chinooks and some upstate New York snow to train the Canadians on Afghan flying conditions from Jan. 12 to 25.
The snow was a stand in for the ubiquitous Afghan mountain dust, explained Capt. Eric Fritz, 3-126 instructor pilot. Fritz put together a two-week training program to prepare the Canadians for an upcoming Afghan deployment.
The members of the Canadian Forces 408th and 430th Tactical Helicopter Squadrons will be operating Chinooks in Khandahar Province. But the Canadian aircraft are already 6000 miles away in Afghanistan and none are in .Valcartier, Quebec or Edmonton, Alberta, where the Canadian Airmen are based.
The Canadian Forces requested CH-47 training from National Guard Bureau. National Guard Bureau, in turn, tasked the 126th aviation Soldiers to provide the training.
"Everybody jumped at the opportunity to provide the training and transmit Company B’s experience and information to the Canadians," said Col. Michael Bobeck, New York State Army Aviation Officer. "It makes everybody operate safer and allows us to accomplish the mission."
The first week of training focused on classroom briefings and battlefield scenarios and daylight flying operations. The second week was spent perfecting their night flying skills. The training plan climaxed with a simulated air assault. All training flights took place within 100 miles of the Rochester flight facility.
The effect of landing and taking off in the light snow fall around Rochester during the training period provided the Canadians with the same experience they’ll get coping with ever-present dust on a mountaintop in Afghanistan, Fritz said.
"The New York National Guard has been very accommodating because it’s all been last minute for us," said Canadian Capt. Martin LeFrancois, 430th Squadron, Canadian Air Force. "Now that we have six Chinooks waiting for us in Afghanistan, the training program that they prepared for us will be really beneficial."
The Canadian aviators normally operate the CH-146 Griffon helicopter which is similar to the American UH-1 helicopter which was used extensively during the Vietnam War, so the training also served as transition training.
Canadian Forces have been involved in the American-led coalition warring against Al-Quada and the Taliban in Afghanistan since 2002. In 2006 Canada deployed a battle group of about 2,500 personnel in Kandahar Province under the command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force or ISAF.
Canadians have assisted in training the Afghan National Army and Police, and in civil reconstruction projects in that country and have fought alongside Americans and Canada has lost more than 100 soldiers during this mission.