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help guide the aircraft to an area they can take off. "The pilots can't see behind them, and can't tell if their rotors are too


close to something," said Spc. Charles Ballato, also a crew chief in Tomahawk Troop. "Helping the helicopters back up on the parking pad can be scary because the aircraft can sometimes turn a little wide and you get pretty close to the tail rotor." Once the helicopter is cleared for takeoff, the crew chief renders a sharp


salute and watches as the pilots take off toward uncertain danger. "We salute the pilots as they leave to show them honor, because we


don't know if this will be the last time we ever see them," said Kell. "We lost some pilots last time we were here, and we know that's part of the job, but I just hope the pilot and the aircraft come back safe." "I get a little nervous every time I watch my bird take off," said Ballato,


a native of Wheeling, W. Va. "The pilots trust us to take care of these birds and I don't want to let them down." Even though the crew chiefs aren't flying with the aircraft, their job is


just as important as the pilots, said Corrigan, a native of Rehoboth, Mass. "If I had the opportunity, I wouldn't mind taking a flight with them,"


said Kell. "Even if I never do, I still feel proud knowing the aircraft I just fixed is about to go save lives and do great things." ◆


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