Alaska e-Post online

Soldiers, Kiowas ready to support USARAK mission

Story, photos by Sgt. Tiffany Evans
20th PAD

U.S. Army Alaska’s air-reconnaissance scout unit is playing a vital role in helping prepare other Soldiers for combat, even as the unit continues to grow.

The mission of the 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, is to deploy worldwide to conduct reconnaissance and security operations as a member of the air-ground team.

Their mission includes assisting USARAK’s brigade combat teams as they prepare for the ongoing combined-arms fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, said Col. John Buss, Task Force 49 commander.

“Within days of their arrival, air cavalry crews were above the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility and across the runways training for close-combat attack with 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, fire support teams,” Buss said. “This squadron brings a capability to Alaska — a capability that we have already rehearsed and benefited from.”

Soldiers, Kiowas ready to support USARAK mission

Flying OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, the squadron fulfills traditional cavalry scout and attack roles.

The squadron’s command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Mitchell, said they are building and training the squadron quickly to help support the current deployment tempo.

They are prepared to support, organize and participate in joint exercises, which help to make them ready for the Global War on Terror.

Earlier this year, 6th Sqdn., 17th Cav., spent time at Fort Bliss, Texas, participating in Joint Task Force North, where they did reconnaissance missions in support of the U.S. Border Patrol.

“It was a perfect mission for this squadron at its point of rebuilding,” said Maj. Michael McCurry, 6th Sqdn., 17th Cav., training officer. “It was good training for our future deployments, because we used (night vision) and thermal imaging equipment.”

According to its Web site, JTF-North is the DoD organization tasked to support federal law enforcement agencies in the identifying and interdicting of suspected trans-national threats within and along the approaches to the continental United States.

At the end of April, crews from 6th Sqdn., 17th Cav., also trained with C Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, on reconnaissance and security operations.

Before moving here from Hawaii, the 6th Sqdn., 17th Cav., had scout ground troops attached to them.

This gives the unit a better understanding than other helicopter teams when it comes to working with ground troops, McCurry said.

“We are an integral member of the team and are there to support the ground troop commander by being an early warning system and, if need be, an attack system,” McCurry said.

“Our job is to find the enemy, monitor the situation and attack the enemy if necessary. Unlike most reconnaissance air troops, we have the capability to engage and destroy targets in close-combat attacks,” he added.

Ground troops who train with Kiowa crews have an advantage because the training is the same for every team, McCurry explained.

“Air cavalry troops fly and fight the same throughout the Army; the only thing different is the Soldiers in the crews,” said Lt. Col. Robert Brown, 6th Sqdn., 17th Cav., commander. “Soldiers on the ground in combat know they can pick up a radio and confidently work (with) any Kiowa crew after training with us.”

This is McCurry’s fourth assignment to a cavalry squadron, and he said it’s the best mission he’s had so far.

He enjoys being with the ground troops, seeing what they’re seeing and working together to defeat the enemy.

The squadron is assigned to 25th Infantry Division headquarters in Hawaii and forward stationed in Alaska where they are attached to Task Force 49.

C, D and Headquarters and Headquarters troops moved here from Hawaii last year with only cadre and are still gaining Soldiers. B Troop was activated last fall, and A Troop will be stood up in July.

On May 4, two Vietnam veterans participated in the F Troop activation at Ladd Field on Fort Wainwright. Retired Maj. Ronald Mattioli and retired Sgt. 1st Class Robert Decker both served with F Troop, 17th Cavalry.

Mattioli was the third platoon leader and then the executive officer while Decker was a gunner in Mattioli’s platoon.

“It’s a great honor to be part of this ceremony, and I’m speechless to see Troop F come back alive. It’s just unbelievable,” Decker said.

Mattioli said the new Soldiers of F Troop are patriotic, professional and outstanding. “The guidon is in good hands,” he said.

After the activation, Mattioli and Decker were awarded the Order of Saint George Bronze Medallion, an award given to members of the Army’s armor and cavalry forces by the United States Armor Association.


Maj. Ronald Mattiioli

Lt. Col. Robert Brown, commander, 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, places an Order of Saint George Bronze Medallion around retired Maj. Ronald Mattiioli’s neck. Mattioli was F Troop, 17th Cavalry’s third platoon leader and executive officer during part of the Vietnam era.

Soldiers of F Troop, 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment

Soldiers of F Troop, 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, stand at attention during the playing of the National Anthem at the unit’s activation ceremony May 4 at Ladd Field. Retired Sgt. 1st Class Robert Decker, who served with F Troop, also participated in the event.


Unit Crest

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