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Helicopters begin duty at Wainwright 

An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior assigned to 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, takes off to perform aeronautical tests on the unit’s maiden flight May 31. The unit will use these helicopters to assist in air-ground integration training for the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, later this year.

Story, photo by Spc. Vincent Fusco
20th PAD

FORT WAINWRIGHT — Soldiers of the 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment took an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter on its maiden flight in Alaska to perform basic aeronautical tests May 31.

Following aerodynamic checks and cold weather modifications to their aircraft, the unit will use their nine Kiowa Warriors later this year to start training members of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team and the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, in air-ground integration on the battlefield, said 1st Lt. Loren Sancineto, platoon leader, 6th Sqdn., 17th Cav., and the officer in charge of the offload of the unit’s nine Kiowas.

The Kiowa is an armed reconnaissance helicopter equipped with rockets, .50-caliber weapons systems and Stinger missiles, said Spc. Venson Lewis, a crew chief with 6th Sqdn., 17th Cav.

He said its best weapon, however, is a mast-mounted sight with a sophisticated target acquisition system.

The helicopter can use infrared thermal imaging and night vision to acquire any target in range and, if necessary, send that target’s information to any other air or ground-based asset, Lewis added.

“Our most lethal weapon (on) the battlefield is our radios,” said Sancineto. “We have the ability to use artillery or call in Air Force close-air support on any target.”

The top-mounted sight and its quiet engine allow the Kiowa to sit behind trees, a hillside or almost any other obstacle to acquire any target undetected.

“Nobody will notice it’s there, and you don’t have to put yourself in harm’s way to know what’s there,” said Lewis. “It can go anywhere and do anything.”

The hills and flats surrounding the post will prove to be very useful training ground, Sancineto said. The Kiowa has the ability to adapt to almost any terrain, including the mountainous features.

The helicopters arrived May 7 from Hawaii with a small group of Soldiers, all assigned to Task Force 49, U.S. Army Alaska’s new aviation brigade.

About 150 Soldiers will move here initially, with the balance of the unit’s authorized 380 Soldiers arriving from other locations across the Army as part of the Army’s normal stationing cycle by October 2007.

The unit will also receive an additional 21 Kiowas by then to better train Soldiers in air-ground integration, Sancineto said.

“(Today’s) flight is the first of many,” Sancineto said. “Once everyone is here, we’ll be out in full force.”