Army Aviation

Canadian Chinooks Provide Heavy Lift Support

By CPT Renner H. Hall: During the fall of 2015, two CH-147s and 40 airmen from the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) 450th Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS) partnered with 3rd Battalion, 82nd Aviation Regiment, the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade’s (CAB) general support aviation battalion (GSAB) for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division’s Joint Operation Access Exercise (JOAX) 16-01 at Fort Bragg, NC. The operation was unique as 3-82 GSAB’s organic Chinook company – save one lieutenant, two instructor pilots and a couple of maintainers – were deployed to the Joint Readiness Training Center. Essentially, America’s Guard of Honor was entirely dependent on its allies for its heavy lift support.

A Canadian CH-147F Chinook assigned with the 450th Tactical Helicopter Squadron, 1st Wing Kingston, trails a lead Canadian CH-147 and 4 UH-60 Black Hawks assigned to Bravo Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division on Fort Bragg, N.C. Oct 29. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY CPT ADAN CAZAREZ

The RCAF recently purchased their CH-147s via direct commercial sales three years ago, with JOAX 16-011 representing the first time Canada had operated their new CH-147s outside of Canadian territory. The 450th THS came to Ft. Bragg to work alongside Task Force Talon (consisting of 1-82 Attack Reconnaissance Bn. (ARB), 2-82 Assault Helicopter Bn. (AHB), and 3-82 GSAB) to conduct air assault, air movement, and airborne operations.

Though the exercise had its hiccups, the men and women of Task Force Talon and 450th THS were able to safely and effectively execute mixed multi-ship, mixed airframe company air assaults in adverse weather conditions operating on a condensed planning timeline. At the end of the exercise, the RCAF had a better understanding of air assault operations. More importantly, U. S. and Canadian planners learned to work though their different standard operating procedures, helping our two nations work together more effectively in future conflicts.

CPT Greg Stoner (right), commander, Bravo Company, 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, briefs his flight plan to Maj. Robert Tyler assigned to the 450th Tactical Helicopter Squadron, 1st Wing Kingston, during an air mission brief. NC. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY CPT ADAN CAZAREZ

Lessons Learned
3-82 GSAB commander, LTC Hise Gibson, said about the exercise, “the two things that will get us in trouble will be logistics and communications.” At the time, I didn’t appreciate how right he would be. The Canadians have 20-foot shipping containers which can expand into a self-contained maintenance facility, stocked with internal power generation, heating and lighting. At first, the Americans eyed the Canadian containers with envy – that was, until the end of the exercise and the realization that only one piece of equipment on all of Ft. Bragg could load the container onto a flatbed truck for shipping – and that piece of equipment had to be booked months in advance! The experience was eye-opening, as we realized how difficult it could be to move into an austere environment.

Canadian Master Cpl. Mike Jarratt, 450th Tactical Helicopter Squadron, checks the back of his CH-147F Chinook prior to an orientation flight, Fort Bragg, NC, Oct 26, 2015. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SSG Christopher Freeman, 82nd CAB PAO

Along the same lines as their maintenance, the Canadian Chinooks are a direct commercial sale from Boeing. Didn’t seem like it would be that big of a deal, right? Well, their CH-47s don’t come with pages and pages of authorized fuels like the American helicopters do. The fuel issue wasn’t a show stopper by any means since all it took to resolve was a memo from Boeing. Again, not a huge problem to overcome, but another “ankle biter” which could have brought operations to a halt.
Speaking of operations, enough credit cannot be given to 2-82 AHB. Their Troopers worked diligently to ensure that the Canadians had a positive experience.

lanners such as CW2 Jason Meadows interacted flawlessly with the Canadian pilots to produce a plan and products that facilitated the successful mixed multi-ship air assaults in non-ideal weather night after night. The hours-long aircrew mission brief (ACMB) process prior to the missions was something the Canadian pilots were unaccustomed to but the agreement was almost unanimous that when time allows the “American way of doing things” was pretty darn good after all.

Canadian Cpl. Greg Watts, flight engineer, 450th Tactical Helicopter Squadron, 1st Wing Kingston, gives commands to paratroopers from 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prior to boarding their CH-147F Chinook during cold loading rehearsals, Fort Bragg, NC, Oct 27. / U.S. ARMY PHOTO BY SSG Christopher Freeman, 82nd CAB PAO

So, at the end of the three weeks the Canadians from 450th spent at Ft. Bragg, lessons were learned, patches exchanged and foundations laid for further interoperability training with our neighbors to the North. None of it would have been possible had it not been for the hard work of our logisticians on both sides of the border, the dedication of the members of B/2-82 AHB under CPT Greg Stoner and 2BCT who orchestrated this training exercise for the Canadians.

CPT Renner Hall is a UH-60M pilot serving as the lead interoperability planner for 3rd Battalion (General Support Aviation), 82nd Aviation Regiment at Fort Bragg,