Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot
10th Combat Aviation Brigade PAO NCOIC
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghan-istan – In any aviation battalion, D Company is the go-to unit for keeping aircraft in the fight. With platoons of specialized shops, such as power frame, engines, avionics, hydraulics and sheet metal, D Company’s mission is to repair the battalion’s aircraft as quickly as possible allowing the unit to continue its aviation mission. The maintenance its members perform can either be routine or as a result of damage.
Three Soldiers from D Company, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, Task Force Phoenix, recently completed the repair of extensive electrical equipment damage on a UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter. The damage was caused by an indirect fire attack toward the end of this year’s fighting season.
Sgt. Anthony Zielinski, an aircraft electrician, and Sgt. Justin Bridwell and Spc. Clinton Baughman, both avionics mechanics, took on the task of replacing or repairing 86 wires in addition to three terminal blocks and three coaxial data bus lines. Zielinski, who worked seven 12-hour shifts on the project, said the project took almost eight days to complete.
“There was a push to get the aircraft up as soon as possible to get it back on line,” he said. “A lot of time was spent figuring out what wires went with what system, which wires were best to replace or to repair.
“Some wires, because of resistance values, we cannot splice them,” Zielinski added. “In those cases, it’s best to run new wire.”
Bridwell, who devoted 104 hours to the project, spent the first three days prepping by ensuring all necessary parts were on hand.
“We had a giant mess of destroyed wire,” he said. “We had to identify what each specific wire was, involving its system, its purpose and its termination points, and then came the repair.”
According to their platoon leader, 1st Lt. Eric Solomon, after receiving the necessary materials, Bridwell and Zielinski worked alternating 12-hour shifts to repair the electrical system as quickly as possible. Baughman contributed about 70 hours to the project.
“The repair itself took an immense amount of attention to detail and dedication to mission,” Solomon said. “Individually inspecting and marking entire bundles of wires for damage and keeping an accurate log of the damaged wires took hours alone.”
Not only did the project require technical expertise and dedication to proper maintenance, but a lot of caffeine as well, according to Bridwell.
The three would spend dozens of hours working in awkward positions in the tail boom behind the cabin – a space too narrow to sit up – inspecting damage and replacing wires. Most of the work was done alone in the tail boom lying on their backs or on their sides.
“My hands were getting really tired, and after the third day, they really hurt,” Bridwell said. “We do a lot of work out here, but rarely is it hour-upon-hour, day-upon-day.”
Solomon said the efforts of Bridwell, Zielinski and Baughman are indicative of the work they and all of their colleagues in D Company have been performing throughout the deployment, production that reduces aircraft downtime.
“The work these Soldiers do is phenomenal, and it allows the task force to continue its full-spectrum aviation support across all of Regional Command – East during this critical time in the history of Afghanistan,” Solomon said.