Two joint inspectors from the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron were tasked with an invaluable mission in – to forward deploy to a remote forward operating base in Afghanistan and help with the inspection and movement of a downed UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
TSgt. Peter Feliciano Jr. and SSgt. Micah Hallman, 8th EAMS air transportation joint inspectors, are part of the joint inspection team that rallied up with UH-60 Army counterparts at FOB Chakhcharan Sept. 17. Chakhcharan is a town and district in central Afghanistan, which serves as the capital of Gwhor Province. Chakhcharan is a NATO-controlled FOB that is operated by the Lithuanian Army.
“This FOB is located in a valley surrounded by two villages,” said Feliciano. “We knew there was an element of risk involved because this location was no stranger to enemy sniper fire.”
After the arrival, the JI team assessed the damaged UH-60. The Black Hawk experienced a hard nose landing, smashing the nose cone and bottom of the cockpit rendering the brakes inoperable.
“The ideal situation would have been to have the aircraft recovered and airlifted out by a (CH-47) Chinook helicopter,” said Feliciano, deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. “But because of the weight of the Black Hawk and the elevation we were currently at, this wouldn’t be possible.”
The team’s next option was to prepare the Black Hawk to ensure all hazardous material and cargo were properly secured to allow it to be loaded in a C-17 Globemaster III to be transported to an airfield and flown out for repairs.
“Even though some structural damage was sustained in the crash, the Black Hawk’s struts were mechanically sound, which is important for raising or lowering the helicopter to meet airframe height requirements,” said Hallman, deployed from Pope Air Field, N.C.
The JI team assessed the overall status of the UH-60 and deemed it airworthy to be transported on the C-17. The Blackhawk was then prepped and readied for onward movement. The team’s quick and efficient work got them in and out of the FOB in a day and a half.
Even though the successful mission was over and they were on their way back to their squadron, a tenant unit to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, the excitement didn’t end for Hallman.
His brother, Army SSgt. Nathan Hallman, is assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers at Kandahar Air Field where Micah traveled through. The two hadn’t seen each other in almost a year. They were able to connect and spent a day hanging out and playing pool before Micah returned to the 8th EAMS.
“The reward of not only getting our mission accomplished at FOB Chakhcharan, but to spend time with my brother was worth the risk,” said Hallman. “This was a great mission and I’m glad I was a part of it.”