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Photo by Courtesy of Alpha Company, Task Force 1/151st Aviation Attack Battalion

U.S. Army task force teams up with Marines in Kalsu

19 May 2005 | Sgt. Juan Vara

Task Force 1/151st Aviation Attack Battalion, a U.S. Army unit comprised of a flight company and elements of a maintenance company and a headquarters company, arrived here in April to support the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).

After spending the better half of their one-year deployment in Mosul, where the task force served for five months, the “GhostRiders” went from patrolling the air space for the entire northern half of Iraq to patrolling the air space of western Iraq, from south of Baghdad.

While in Mosul, the unit played an important role in reducing insurgency during the January elections.

Flying AH-64A Apaches, they provide convoy security and protection for warfighters on the ground.  The unit is unique because their helicopters stand out from any other aircraft in the U.S. Army.

Prior to the unit deploying, the helicopters were flown to Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., and stripped of their traditional Army green paint.  The Apaches now sport the same gray paint as the aircraft of the Marine wing they support, as a measure to minimize surface-to-air attacks.

“It’s worked,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer Ben Hahn, an AH-64A Apache pilot.  “That gray color is hard to see.  If two Apaches take off, a green and a gray one, the gray one will disappear in the sky at about three miles and you’ll still see the green one for another two miles.”

Hahn, from Winston-Salem, N.C., said the gray color also helps in keeping the helicopters cool because of its ability to reflect heat.  “They still get hot, but not as much as the green Apaches,” he said.  “Touch a green Apache that has been sitting out in the sun and it will burn your hand.”

While the unit was in Mosul, the soldiers received word that the locals, who had never seen aircraft like that before, called the gray Apaches “blue dragons.”

But while the flight company is the talk of the town because of their unique aircraft and their mission patrolling Marine Corps air space, the work of the other two companies in the task force doesn’t fall short.

The soldiers from the maintenance company keep the Apaches in the air day after day and are forced to perform all maintenance and inspections under the scalding Iraqi sun.

Armament soldiers from the headquarters company handle the ordnance loaded on the Apaches every time they leave Kalsu.  This company also has fuel supply specialists, who not only refuel the aircraft in the task force, but take care of all transient aircraft.  According to Army Lt. Col. Edward B. McKee, task force commanding officer, the majority of the aircraft refueling here is from the 2nd MAW (Fwd).

“In the month we’ve been here we’ve refueled 535 aircraft,” said McKee.

Soldiers from the headquarters company are also manning Kalsu’s arrival/departure airfield control group, the base’s passenger terminal.  According to McKee, more than 1,600 service members and civilians have arrived or departed Kalsu in the month the task force has been here and approximately 5,000 pieces of equipment have been loaded and offloaded from aircraft such as CH-53E Super Stallions, CH-46E Sea Knights, UH-60 Black Hawks and CH-47 Chinooks.

The company also has medical personnel, provides staff for the base operations section and a liaison between the company and the 155th Brigade Combat Team, a U.S. Army unit here serving with the II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).

Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the “GhostRiders” support the 2nd MAW (Fwd) and the 155th BCT as they conduct security and stability operations.  Their efforts are instrumental in improving the economic, political and security conditions of western Iraq and in turn will enable the return of Karbala, Najaf and Bahil provinces to local control.


- For more information on the soldiers reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at varaj@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil -
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