FORT RILEY, Kan. — Aviators from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, tested a new self-extraction training scenario designed to save lives in the most dire of circumstances during a survival and evasion exercise in mid-November.
“This is a nonstandard event,” Capt. Tony Snipes, commander of Troop C, 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, said. “There is no Army standard, so we are trying to standardize it and execute it as professionally as possible.”
The scenario placed the aviation Soldiers in a simulated hostile environment where they were required to make their way from a “downed” OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter to a designated pickup zone more than a kilometer away. Once at the pickup zone, the stranded aviators were rescued by their fellow Kiowa pilots. Since the Kiowa is such a small aircraft, the rescued Soldiers had to secure themselves to the outside of the aircraft using straps connected to their flight gear.
The self-extraction technique was used in Iraq in 2004 during the rescue of downed OH-58D Kiowa Warrior pilots Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chad Beck and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Greg Crow. It was used again in Iraq in 2007 following the downing of an aircraft piloted by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mark Burrows and Chief Warrant Officer Steven Cianfrini. In both instances, the rescued pilots rode outside of an AH-64 Apache secured by a nylon strap attached to the pilots’ vests.
When a Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) or MEUSOC deploys, one mission they have as a “canned” scenario is TRAP, or Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel. When Scott O’Grady was shot down in the Balkans in 1999, it was the Marines that executed a TRAP mission to recover him.
Such a mission is not commonly practiced by Army units. I have gone through a couple of training scenarios with this in mind, but it wasn’t a core mission, but more an attempt to add a little something to break the monotony.
But as the article notes, using wingmen to self-extract a unit’s personnel has been done under fire. This training is an attempt to discover what works, and what doesn’t, and more importantly, do it before the bullets start flying.
Good on 1/6CAV for stepping up.