Kentucky Guardsmen maintain aircraft to stand always ready, always there

MJO

By: Spc. Will Bolton, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

The Kentucky National Guard’s OH-58 Kiowa helicopters have proven successful during past search and seizure missions for the Joint Support Operations as well as during natural disasters. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Will Bolton, 133rd MPAD)

FRANKFORT, Ky. —  “We are hands down the best aviation unit in the state,” said Kentucky National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Bernard D. Adkins.

Sitting behind the flight operations desk, the 38-year-old crew chief technician manages and maintains flight operations at the Army Aviation Support Facility for his Charlie Company 1st Battalion 376th Aviation, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade headquartered at Frankfort’s Boone National Guard Center.

Adkins isn’t just tooting his own horn either.  In March 2009, the 63 TAB was assigned to the Chemical Biological Radiological and High-Yield Explosive Consequence Management Response Force.

Under CCMRF, the 63rd TAB is responsible for any and all kinds of large scale disasters that would necessitate a large scale evacuation of people; including natural and manmade.  Organizing a response to one of these scenarios takes more than just a laptop and a phone.

“What we bring to the table is that higher level headquarters that can process all the overwhelming data that’s going to come in and try to make sense of it and prioritize missions versus asset availability,” said Adkins.

“We want to get as much help out to the civilian community that we possibly can with what we have available,” he said.

And available to assist the Commonwealth or any other states is a fleet of Kentucky’s UH-60 Blackhawks and OH-58 Kiowas paired with New York National Guard’s CH-47 Chinooks.

The Kentucky National Guard relies on a team of mechanics and Soldiers to keep UH-60 Blackhawks in the air. This particular Alpha model, used for medevacs, will be upgraded to a Lima model to ensure a wider range of use for the CCMRF mission currently held by the 63rd TAB. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Will Bolton, 133rd MPAD)

But for Adkins to keep the birds in the air, the 63rd TAB headquarters relies on the maintenance expertise of Kentucky National Guard of Master Sgt. Richard A. Hackett Sr. The senior aviation sergeant and his crew maintain the operational status of the Guard’s fleet on a daily basis.

“Any day it could be half a dozen to a dozen people just maintaining aircraft in different varieties and different degrees,” said Hackett.

Most of those people, Hackett said aren’t on the flight line. They are the mechanics, supply and administrators who ensure the aircraft are ready for the pilots.  The Kentucky Guard standards are set extremely high, Hackett said. “We look at things that, if anything is a thousandth of an inch wrong, we have to fix it,” said Hackett.

“If I see a crack or a scratch, then the part’s no good I can’t put it back into service.  Everything has to be 100 percent,” said Hackett.

The Kentucky National Guard maintains daily flight operations for training purposes and in support of the needs of the Commonwealth. In addition, the Kentucky National Guard is partnered with the New York National Guard for the CCMRF mission.

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