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Crew chiefs keep Apaches fighting Multi-National Division Baghdad


At Camp Taji, in Iraq the AH-64D Apache Longbow crew chiefs

are proud of their aircraft. They're quick to tell you it's one of the most advanced pieces of equipment in the Army's arsenal. They boast that the 58-foot-long war-fighting machine travels up to

227 miles per hour and is armed with as many as 16 Hellfire rockets, up to 75 (2.75 inch) aerial rockets, and can carry 1,200 rounds for its 30 mm machine gun. They'll tell you about their pilots, who are expertly trained in maneu-

vering and engaging the enemy; pilots who can make an insurgent's day turn really bad ... really fast. The one thing most of them can't tell you is what it's like to ride in

one. Unlike the UH-60 Black Hawk, or CH-47 Chinook, Apaches are

designed to carry only the two pilots, but it's the crew chiefs, on the ground, who keep this aircraft in the fight and running at top performance. "The crew chiefs are constantly repairing and servicing these aircraft,"

said Capt. Chad Corrigan, the Tomahawk Troop, 4th Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment commander and an Apache pilot. "Even though they don't fly with us, they play a vital role in launch-recover-launch operations." "Launch-recover-launch" refers to an aircraft taking off on a mission,

coming back, being serviced and then taking off again, all within a small window of time. "Apaches may all look the same, but they definitely don't act the

same," said Staff Sgt. Jason Combs, a maintenance supervisor and crew chief in Tomahawk Troop. "I don't mind not being able to fly with the hel- icopters, because I know my job is still important to the pilots." For every hour these helicopters are flown, says the commander, crew

chiefs perform an average of seven hours of maintenance. "There are usually two crew chiefs assigned to each (helicopter); one

per shift," said Combs, a native of Pensacola, Fla. "This allows us to fly these birds 24/7." "When the aircraft comes to us we check it, double check it and then

check it again," said Spc. Christopher Kell, a crew chief in Tomahawk Troop from Spring Hill, Fla. "They wouldn't be able to fly without us taking care of the birds while they're on the ground." Kell is qualified to be a crew chief for Black Hawks as well, but he

says he prefers to work with Apaches because working on them comes more naturally to him. In addition to performing maintenance on the aircraft, crew chiefs also


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