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Enlisted Tigershark soldiers take to the sky

Cpl. Andrew Lemus, a soldier assigned to Bravo Company, 1-229th Attack Bn., 16th Combat Aviation Brigade fist bumps Capt. Ryan Tompkins at JBLM on Apr. 20, 2022. Photo credit: Capt. Kyle Abraham

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - Those who have spent time around Army helicopters know that the enlisted crew chiefs are often visible from the sky, with their head hanging out of the sliding side door of a UH-60 Black Hawk or feet dangling off of the back ramp of a CH-47 Chinook.

AH-64 Apache attack helicopter crew chiefs, on the other hand, get as far as the flightline; they launch their aircraft from the ground, relying on feedback from the Apache pilots when they land.

That changed this week.

Select enlisted soldiers from the 1-229th Attack Battalion "Tigersharks," 16th Combat Aviation Brigade were allowed to fly as the "front seater" in an Apache for a flight of their own at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, on April 20, 2022.

The AH-64Es of the Tigershark Battalion are used for attack and reconnaissance for the ground force, and thus only requires an aircrew consisting of two warrant or commissioned officer pilots, while transporting an array of armaments and sensors.

"This has been in the works for almost six months," said Lt. Col. Kevin Easter, commander of 1-229th, "We want to make this a regular event to reward outstanding soldiers in the unit with a ride in the aircraft they work so hard to support."

The rides lasted about an hour each from wheels up to wheels down.

Before taking off, the enlisted crew members were fitted with flight gear and received instruction on the aviation life support equipment. They also received instruction on the aircraft cockpit and emergency equipment, in addition to emergency egress procedures.

Once they were in the air, the pilot would take them through a series of common maneuvers to demonstrate the flight capabilities of the aircraft that the enlisted crew members labor on around the clock to keep airborne.

"For me it solidified that I need to complete my Warrant Officer packet," said Sgt. Kolin Schurter, an AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter Repairer assigned to Delta Company, 1-229th Attack Bn.

In total, 12 enlisted soldiers from the Tigershark team were able to experience what the Apache is like in flight. They were paired with the Standardization Pilots from the battalion who were able to explain the control inputs and outputs to the enlisted crew members as the aircraft climbed, banked, turned, and maneuvered above Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"My pilot, (CW3 Brian Verges), was able to walk me through the details of the controls he was using and how they translated to the aircraft performance during flight, and for me that experience really gave me the clarity to know that becoming a pilot is the next step in my Army career," Schurter said.

The experience of these enlisted crew members demonstrates the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade's commitment to taking care of soldiers, placing people first, and promoting Army aviation as a path for soldiers in all enlisted career fields to pursue.

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