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Kiowas Hitch Ride to Operation Jump Start

The East Coast choppers were being shipped to the South West border in support of Operation Jump Start, according to 1st Sgt. Jack Cipolla, of the New Jersey National Guard.

“We’re actually losing the aircraft to the Texas National Guard for the Border Patrol. In return we are getting UH-60 Blackhawks. We’re going from 16 helicopters to 30 helicopters.”

Tight quarters for the five OH-58 Kiowas on board the C-17.

That’s because his unit, Company A, 1st Battalion, 150th Air Assault, is transitioning from general aviation support to its current mission of inserting and extracting combat troops, something he’s pretty familiar with. While deployed last year to Forward Operating Base Speicher in Iraq, Cipolla’s unit had a taste of what air assault does, and he knows the capabilities of the bigger chopper.

“I love my Blackhawks,” he notes with pride.

This isn’t the first time the unit has traded aircraft. “We did this a couple of years ago with a task force when we went down to Arkansas with Cobras, so this is good training for everybody.”

Occasionally, C-17 cargo planes will be just a tad heavy for a specific runway which prohibits turning the aircraft around, and that was the case at Trenton, where co-pilot 1st Lt. Denise Rockman and the aircraft commander used a little initiative to position themselves for loading the choppers. Rockman, describes how her plane was able to adapt its landing for the Trenton flight facility.

“We just stopped the aircraft and then did a ninety degree backing onto this runway here using the thrust reversers and we had the loadmasters giving us directions,” Rockman explains. “We practice these maneuvers on a normal basis and we use them in real missions as well.”

Although she’s seen a lot over the past year since volunteering for active duty, it’s the first time the Iraqi Freedom veteran from the 183rd Airlift Squadron out of Jackson, Miss., has seen choppers loaded on board her aircraft.

“The other day we brought back an RV and a huge truck, which I thought was neat to see, I hadn’t seen that before. It’s neat to see these five helicopters loaded on here.


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Volume 32 Number 5
Staff / Information
(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs