March 17, 2015 --
Routine sounds of ships’ whistles blowing and mechanics turning wrenches were interrupted by the whipping of helicopter rotor blades during a joint operation at Marine Corps Support Facility, Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Florida, March 10-11.
For the first time, BICmd and the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, joined forces to conduct a two-day operation where several Apache, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters landed aboard the installation.
The brigade, nicknamed the “Wings of Destiny,” is part of the 101st Airborne Division.
For the next several days, various aircraft will be flown in, broken down and prepared for upload onto a ship for a future deployment.
The support BICmd is providing the 101st CAB promotes inter-service cooperability, according to Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. George Lee, operations chief, BICmd.
“Although our primary mission (at BICmd) is loading and unloading maritime prepositioning ships, this evolution gave us a chance to do something outside of our normal routine,” the operations chief said.
Army Sgt. Maj. Patricia Wahl, sergeant major, 101st CAB, said the joint operation has been phenomenal experience.
“Blount Island Command is definitely a strategic linchpin for the combat operations for aviation,” Wahl pointed out. “Having the capability to come through here and use the port operations to load onto the ship is a (great asset) for us.
“It being a joint effort, the Marines are able to see our capabilities and we are seeing the capabilities of Blount Island Command,” she added.
BICmd supported the 101st CAB’s operation via 832d Transportation Battalion, Jacksonville, Florida.
Army Lt. Col. Ben Walters, commander, 832d Transportation Battalion, said the coordination among the different services has been fantastic.
“Blount Island Command has been absolutely phenomenal in supporting both 832d Transportation Battalion as well as the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade,” Walters said. “It also (shows that) BICmd is more than just a Marine Corps afloat prepositioning program, it also has the capability of receiving aviation assets as well.”
During the operation, Elizabeth Bougher, aircraft mechanic, Lockheed Martin, helped tear down an Apache helicopter to load onto one of the ships for a future deployment.
“Everyone has a vital role in the operation and we will be here until the mission is complete,” Bougher said. “There is a time line (we have) to meet or we will put them off their schedule. Everything has to be ready prior to the ship arriving.”
According to Wahl, the joint operation is going so well, the “Wings of Destiny” are making plans to join forces for future operations.