By Capt. Aaron Shaffer
35th Combat Aviation Brigade
The 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, Missouri Army National Guard, and the 244th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, completed a transfer of authority ceremony at the Camp Taji Military Complex, Iraq, May 1, 2019.
U.S. Army Col. Charles Hausman, commander of the 35th CAB, and U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Javier Acosta, 35th CAB, relinquished responsibility to U.S. Army Col. Harvey Cutchin, commander of the 244th ECAB, and Command Sgt. Maj. Rogelio James, Jr., 244th ECAB, during a transfer of authority ceremony.
The 35th CAB, known here as Task Force Trailblazer, deployed to Southwest Asia nine months ago to provide aviation capabilities for Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Spartan Shield.
Hausman said Task Force Trailblazer’s focus here was to support the ground force commanders with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, lift, attack, and medical evacuation aviation capabilities in numerous countries to assist Coalition partners in efforts to defeat Daesh.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, attended the ceremony and expressed his appreciation of the Task Force Trailblazer team’s contributions. “I am proud of what you’ve achieved here, you should be proud of your service.” said LaCamera. “You’ve made the science and art of flying look easy.”
Supporting the overall mission and the accomplishments achieved here by Task Force Trailblazer were monumental and historic. “Our Soldiers were not only witnessing history, they were making it,” said Acosta.
The number of units falling in under Task Force Trailblazer is impressive. Under Hausman’s and Acosta’s command were over 2,100 personnel from the 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion, Utah Army National Guard; 1-108th Assault Helicopter Battalion, Kansas Army National Guard; 935th Aviation Support Battalion, Missouri Army National Guard; 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, Fort Riley, Kansas; 4th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, Fort Carson, Colorado; Foxtrot Company, 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas; Delta Company, 10th Aviation Regiment, Fort Drum, New York; a task force of Italian aviators; and a task force of Spanish aviators.
In nearly nine months, Task Force Trailblazer completed approximately 14,000 missions. In all, they flew nearly 10,000 hours, carried more than 41,000 passengers, and transferred roughly 14,000,000 pounds of cargo.
Hausman left large shoes to fill, and Cutchin says Task Force Warhawk is ready to continue the operations of Task Force Trailblazer. “[We will] maintain robust combat aviation capabilities that fully support the objectives of the OIR and OSS commanders,” said Cutchin.
Cutchin’s confidence in continuing the operations here is high, thanks to the 35th CAB’s team of highly-skilled professionals. “I am most impressed with the level of discipline and initiative this team [Task Force Trailblazer] has demonstrated during the relief-in-place process we conducted across multiple locations in multiple countries,” said Cutchin. “They moved hundreds of pieces of [our] equipment and over 1,400 [Task Force Warhawk] Soldiers to multiple locations without incident.”
The great amount of missions and work completed by Task Force Trailblazer did not come without challenges. Working to find solutions was a part of the overall challenge. One aspect of what helped his team be successful was bringing people the people assigned to Task Force Trailblazer together. Hausman said recognizing the inter-dependence the units have with one another and being able to work together to overcome challenges was imperative.
Hausman is impressed with the result of his team’s efforts during this deployment. “Seeing the logistics improve, particularly the ability to move aircraft parts, we were able to see our operational readiness rates improve each month based on the hard work of our logisticians and mechanics,” said Hausman. “I am also very proud of how the whole team worked together.”
“My team continues to demonstrate a high-level of enthusiasm and motivation for taking over this complex mission and contributing to the success of our OIR teammates,” said Cutchin. “The 35th CAB has set high standards for use to maintain, especially with the very high operational tempo they have executed, and with the readiness they have built with a very strong maintenance posture. I want to thank COL Hausman and his entire Trailblazer team for getting us postured for success and their absolutely invaluable assistance.”
The 35th CAB’s deployment is finished, but there is still work to be done. “The mission is not complete until we get every Soldier home safely to their families,” said Hausman. “The families have sacrificed and supported their Soldier throughout the entire journey, we cannot be successful without them, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.”
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
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U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
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