Warrior Stories

Kiowa crew chief ensures pilots’ safety

Written by: U.S. Army Spc. Kam Gerohimos - Task Force Shooter

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U.S. Army Spc. Carlos Mendez of Fresno, Calif., conducts routine maintenance on an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter Jan. 5. Mendez is a Kiowa crew chief with Troop A, Task Force Shooter, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, at Forward

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan - It was a cold, windy morning in Jalalabad, and U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Warren Phipps, Regional Command East and Combined Joint Task Force 101 assistant division commander – support, and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Timothy French of Pittsburgh, an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior standardization instructor pilot, were beginning their preflight checks at Forward Operating Base Fenty airfield Jan. 4.

But the seasoned pilots were not alone in prepping the helicopter for flight. U.S. Army Spc. Carlos Mendez, an OH-58D Kiowa crew chief with Troop A, Task Force Shooter, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, was also inspecting the aircraft and filling secure communications into the aircraft radios and cleaning and defogging the windows. This is the Fresno, Calif., native’s second deployment, having deployed to Iraq two years ago.

“Ensuring the aircraft safety to support the mission is honestly one of my favorite aspects of being a crew chief,” said Mendez.

After the preflight inspections were complete, the pilots climbed into the compact cockpit and within minutes, the aircraft roared to life and the rotors were at full speed. Despite the sudden rush of whipping wind and the sound of the roaring rotors that seeped through the headset, Mendez didn’t flinch.

After a few moments, French waved for Mendez to come to the aircraft. Mendez ran under the rotating blades to get instructions from French who had to yell to be heard above the noise from the helicopter. Mendez made a few adjustments to the aircraft then ran back to the edge of the flight line. Finally, the aircraft ascended into a hover before turning and taking off into the Afghanistan skies.

Maintaining the helicopter to safely fly is one of the most important jobs for an OH-58D crew chief. The tiniest flaw could put the lives of the pilots flying in serious danger.

Before the unit received the newest OH-58D(R) model Kiowa, Mendez said he would get to fly on maintenance test flights with the pilots.

“Flying has to be the best part of being a crew chief,” said Mendez.

Before joining the Army, Mendez worked in construction. When asked why someone would choose such a challenging job as an OH-58 Kiowa crew chief, Mendez simply said, “Because I wanted to challenge myself in my abilities. I also wanted to do something selfless for my country because of everything it’s done for me.”

Mendez feels he supports the mission by ensuring the safety of the pilots’ lives in order for them to effectively assist the ground forces.

“Being a crew chief has been a great experience for me,” he said, “I’ve developed a great knowledge of my job and made some lifelong friendships.”

Source:  View Story


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