Out of the hangars, into the field for aviation Soldiers

Story and photos by Spc. Brandy Mort, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Pfc. Lanham walks with his squad to their next point of instruction during the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade’s Command Sergeant Major Challenge at Hidden Valley Training Site in Powell County, Ky., Sept. 14, 2013. Soldiers of the unit gathered in a field environment for the event which gave them the opportunity to focus on basic Army task training. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Brandy Mort)

POWELL COUNTY, Ky. — More than 400 Kentucky National Guardsmen from the 63rd Theatre Aviation Brigade participated in the second annual Command Sergeant Major Challenge at the Hidden Valley Training site in Powell County, Ky., Sept. 13-15.

From the time the sun rose and the dew settled and through the night Soldiers of the 63rd TAB faced a grueling three-day challenge. The event consisted of four different training lanes: Forward Operating Base Security, Medical, Army Warrior Tasks, and Survival. Underneath each lane were 42 subtasks dealing with each particular lane.

Units of the brigade were broke down into squads and were given precise instructions on when and where to be throughout the event. But it was entirely up to them to ensure they used land navigation skills and time management to maximize their training. Squads were awarded points for each task with the team with the most was presented the Command Sergeant Major Trophy during an awards presentation.

To see more photos from the event, click here.

According to the leadership of the brigade, the challenge was planned and executed by the enlisted members of the 63rd TAB.  And that brought the enlisted ranks together, from the seasoned veteran to brand new privates.

“I’m happy this was my first drill with my unit,” said Pfc. Brittni Sherman, the newest patrol and supply specialist with the 2/147th Aviation. “It gives enlisted Soldiers like myself the opportunity to work within their platoon in order to accomplish the mission.”

The CSM challenge gives members of the 63rd TAB a special chance to practice basic soldier skills.

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Sgt. 1st Class Adkins instructs Soldiers of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade on how to assist with a downed aircraft during the brigade’s Command Sergeant Major Challenge at the Hidden Valley Training Site in Powell County, Ky., Sept. 14, 2013. A variety of training lanes awaited the Soldiers of the brigade as they navigated the area from point to point with numerous Army tasks along the way. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Brandy Mort)

“Aviation Soldiers typically work on or around aircrafts on Boone Center,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Wilkins, Command Sgt. Maj. of the 63rd TAB. “This is a unique opportunity for Soldiers to practice skills in a field environment.”

Despite the cold weather and rugged terrain, the Guardsmen enjoyed the training.

“Events like the CSM Challenge make us all better Soldiers,” said Sgt. Marcus Avery, crew chief with Bravo Company 2/147th, “We got the opportunity to bond amongst our teams, and develop more efficient troop leading procedures.”

Certain Soldiers of the 63rd TAB also participated in the event as observers and controllers, or the subject matter expert at each point of instruction. This gave Guardsmen the chance to act the role of opposition forces in scenarios and teach different classes based on the lanes.

“This is a special chance for each Soldier of the 63rd to learn different jobs within the brigade,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dale Adkins, flight operations NCO with Detachment 11, Observation Support Aircraft Agency, “I’m teaching the Soldiers what how to react to a downed aircraft, how to pull security around it and what to do to help the pilots and crew. Everyone gets exposure to an aircraft, even if their job doesn’t call for it.”

The tough weekend concluded with a special treat for the unit as the Department of Agriculture and Kentucky Proud coordinated a luncheon with food prepared by Kentucky Veterans. After all the instruction and hiking through the woods, all the units came together for a meal unlike they had had all weekend. Col. Michael Ferguson, the commander of the 63rd oversaw the luncheon and the award ceremony, congratulating many Soldiers on their accomplishments.

To see the photos from the Kentucky Proud luncheon, click here.

Kentucky’s new State Command Sergeant Major, Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Chumley also attended, paying his first visit to Soldiers in the field in his new role and praised the 63rd.

“I’m very proud of the Soldiers of the 63rd TAB,” said Chumley, “You have set the bar for the Kentucky National Guard. It’s events like these that keep men and women wanting to serve.”

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