North Carolina National Guard AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters sit on the tarmac outside the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment, headquarters before an evening training flight Jan. 10 in Morrisville, N.C. The 1-130th ARB is one of many North Carolina National Guard units manned and trained to support domestic and federal missions. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Kelly L. Widner, 449th Theater Aviation Brigade)
Soldiers assigned to the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 130th Aviation Regiment, conduct flight proficiency training many weekends in 2015, out of their flight facility in Morrisville.
The unit, which maintains a fleet of AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopters, is part of the North Carolina National Guard’s 449th Theater Aviation Brigade.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Steven Pratt, a member of the 1-130th ARB since 2011, said he chose to become a helicopter pilot because of the role aviation plays on the battlefield.
“Bringing our men and women home is the most rewarding aspect of my job,” said Pratt, who previously served as an active-duty medic with the 82nd Airborne Division. After earning a commission as a warrant officer and becoming a pilot, he said he’s proud to have another job where he can keep Soldiers safe. “I am trained to perform a mission that will save lives on the battlefield.”
First Lt. Stephen Scott, also a pilot with the 1-130th ARB, said he’s dreamt of flying helicopters since he was a kid. Now a recent graduate of the U.S. Army’s flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama, Scott said he does not get nervous before a flight.
These administrative and technical preparations are an important part of every pilot’s pre-flight agenda, and Pratt and Scott are quick to emphasize that there is a lot of work involved to ensure that both the pilot and the aircraft are ready.
“Flying is the easy part of the job that we do. The hardest part is doing the mission planning and performance planning for the aircraft,” Pratt said.
Supporting each 1-130th operation is a team of Soldiers at its flight facility, maintenance hangar and battalion headquarters, dedicated to making sure each flight is safe and successful.
“[When we’re in the air,] we have a mission and a specific task that we have to do,” Pratt said. “Someone has to be looking over where we’re going, what we plan to do and if it’s safe to operate the aircraft in that environment.”
By the end of the battalion’s weekend training missions, more than 20 Apache pilots will have participated in flights. These training events are held throughout the year in order to maintain a ready force of aviators for the Army and state of North Carolina.