Army Aviation community experiences first-ever Command Sergeant Major Challenge

Story by: Capt. Stephen Martin, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

CSM Challenge Photos

Soldiers of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade conduct a water crossing in zodiac boats with a simulated casualty to complete the tactical exercise during the first ever ‘Command Sergeant Major Challenge” at Hidden Valley Training Site in Eastern Kentucky Sept. 14-16, 2012.  (photo by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jim Chanley, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade)

POWELL COUNTY, Ky. — It’s a weekend most won’t forget in the Army Aviation community any time soon.

To view all the photos of the event, please click here.

Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Wilkins of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade was charged with leading the first ever Aviation Brigade-wide “Command Sergeant Major Challenge” at the Hidden Valley Training Site in Eastern Kentucky Sept. 14-16.

“I served in the Marines for seven years before joining the Kentucky Guard, and I can honestly say that this was the best field exercise I’ve ever participated in,” said Spc. Lora Detwiler, Bravo Co. 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment.  “I truly had a blast.”

The three-day event spread out over the 551 acres that covers Hidden Valley and had Soldiers navigating from point to point and conducting squad-size tactical exercises.

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Members of Charlie Co. 1st Battalion, 376th Aviation conduct a route  reconnaissanceduring the Kentucky National Guard’s 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade ‘Command Sergeant Major Challenge” at Hidden Valley Training Site in Eastern Kentucky Sept. 14-16, 2012. (photo by Capt. Stephen Martin, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

Lt. Col. Mike Stephens, deputy commander of the 63rdTAB, praised Maj. Mark Brozak who logistically coordinated the entire event. “Brozak did a great job with the 1,000’s of ‘Hey Sir, what about this, what about that’ and managed it all seamlessly,” said Stephens.“This was definitely a team-effort. No one person could have pulled this off,” replied Brozak.

Twenty-six teams covered 13 lanes over the 44-hour training event ranging from reacting to indirect fire to interacting with foreign local-nationals to a water crossing in zodiac boats.

The challenge was not only to negotiate the lanes effectively. These 10-15 person squad-sized elements had a leader. That squad leader was charged with taking care of his or her troops. He or she had to determine where they were going to sleep, when they were going to eat and with the overall safety of the group.

“I hope you learned something this weekend,” Wilkins told his Soldiers at the end of the exercise. “I hope that you grew yourself and your teams as small elements and more than anything have grown your own leadership abilities.”

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Sgt. Josh Bryant, Bravo Co. 2nd Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment, navigates a make-shift rope bridge to accomplish the tactical exercise at the Kentucky National Guard’s 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade first ever ‘Command Sergeant Major Challenge’ at Hidden Valley Training Site in Eastern Kentucky Sept. 14-16, 2012.  (photo by Spc. Tom Harrington, Bravo Co. 2-147 Aviation Unit Public Affairs Historian Representative)

The army aviation community is normally accustomed to work with or on helicopters and airplanes during drill weekend, so this month’s training took a few by surprise. Despite this fact, everyone was up for the challenge.

The exercise itself was also a competition amongst the squads on who would prevail as the best. 1st Lt. John Kerr’s squad from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 63rdTAB took home the top prize which was a piece of an OH-58 Kiowa Helicopter Blade with the squad members names engraved in the unique plaque.

“This is a training event that went from the private level all the way to the colonel level and each one of you has served with distinction,” commented Col. Mike Ferguson, 63rd TAB commander. “Great job finishing the first and what will be an annual event. The challenge is on for next year.”

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