An Army AH-64 Apache unit at Wheeler Army Airfield made some history Wednesday -- and gained a lot of attention from the shore -- by flying 19 of the wasp-like attack helicopters in formation around Oahu to celebrate an anniversary and demonstrate the squadron's capability.
Not since 18 OH-58D Kiowa Warriors flown by the same unit -- the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment -- made a similar flight in 2015 have so many military choppers flown in formation around the island. At that time, it was to commemorate the planned departure of the Kiowas.
"All the skillsets that we train for all our other missions came into play today," Lt. Col. Ryan Kendall, commander of the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, said after the morning flight. "We went through a full planning session for this, a full briefing. We went through rehearsals on how to be able to do it -- and all these skills tied directly into what we do every day as part of the division here both in Hawaii and out in the Pacific."
A confluence of factors prompted the large-scale formation flight, officials said.
The squadron wanted to commemorate the 6th Cavalry Regiment's activation 158 years ago on May 3, 1861, in Pennsylvania.
Kendall also said that over the past couple of years there was only one other time the 500-soldier squadron was together on Oahu because of operational commitments elsewhere.
"So this was the first time that we've executed a collective mission -- the entire squadron together -- since we brought Apaches to the island," he said. That was in 2016.
The squadron recently had 10 Apaches on Hawaii island for the exercise Lightning Strike. One of three subunits, called troops, was in South Korea for a nine-month rotation with eight Apaches. In February,
10 Apaches were in California at the National Training Center.
The two-seat attack helicopters, which flew unarmed but have a 30mm gun and carry Hellfire missiles and 2.75-inch rockets, took the "pineapple express" route to the Haleiwa area, rounded Kaena point, and circumnavigated Oahu counterclockwise offshore in three "V" shaped formations.
All but a few of the Apaches in the squadron were part of the flight.
Crew Chief Sgt. Rogelio Cruz, 29, said "it actually takes a lot of dedication from these guys" to get so many aircraft up and out. "It brings up morale from the troops from all the crew chiefs and up, because this is our work right here."
Apache pilot 1st Lt. Shane Connolly, 25, also noted that the formation flight was "exceptionally rare."
"So to not only have the three troops stationed at Wheeler (fly) at the same time," Connolly said, "but to be able to have the support to launch them all and to do it on the anniversary -- and do it in conjunction with farewelling a squadron commander, Lt. Col. Kendall, who's been a tremendous commander -- it's a good feeling for sure."
Kendall, who is leaving later this month, received a traditional firetruck water dousing on the flight line.
This article is written by William Cole from The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.