The big Chinook blasts across the landscape at tree top level at 70 miles an hour with M-60 machine guns spitting out 700 rounds a minute. But this is no movie rehearsal..this is prelude to war...And these men and women of the Nevada and Oregon Army National Guard are on their way to the very cradle of the war against terrorism. For the most part..the training has been intense and relentless..There have few days off...Mistakes are met with do it over until you get it right..These soldiers are all apprehensive..all are nervous..some are scared...but not one is willing to back out.
Old timers like Rene' Torres are going as mentors to the youngsters. Torres served in the Viet-Nam war..and is the last of his kind. His experience and courage will be worth its weight in gold when this unit starts its battle missions in Afghanistan, but in the meantime it's grunting and groaning to get this airplanes ready for the missions that are yet to come. It normally takes 12 hours to replace an auxillary power unit on a Chinook, these mechanics are expected to get it done in eight.
Today the crew chiefs and flight engineers are perfecting the techniques of loading and unloading vehicles. There's no room for error here. Screw this up and you might put a Chinook out of business for a long time. So moves are deliberate, and not to be misunderstood. But the training in the air will be even more intense. The next stage will be the most serious, the outcome of which could determine the life or death of the Chinook crews in a gunfight...Aerial gunnery..It's not for sissies..or second place winners.