Team Pegasus: Flying over Tuzla

Capt. Russell Craig
First published in
SFOR Informer#132, February 14, 2002

Members of the U.S. Army’s Task Force Pegasus (TFP) flew a training mission over the mountains around Tuzla. Such missions ensure that the crews are ready for operations.

Camp Comanche - Using only the terrain as a guide, U.S. Army Maj. Arnold Russo, pilot and TFP aviation planner, navigated above the steep mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Feb. 4.
Below, the ground merged into browns and yellows as the helicopter hustled over ravines and valleys. The pilots carry out such training to retain their edge and to be effective in executing their unit's mission.
"We are SFOR's aviation force. We have a dual mission. We carry out aviation missions for Multinational Division North (MND-N). Additionally we support Lt. Gen. John Sylvester (COMSFOR) as needed throughout the entire country of BiH. We perform aviation operations which range from air movements to reconnaissance and surveillance," said American Lt. Col. Paul Kelly, the task force commander.
Unit's combination
TFP uses the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter for air movements and the OH-58D Kiowa Warriors helicopter for reconnaissance. The unit's combination of sub-units is unique.
"We are on the leading edge of army aviation. We've got what we call a multi-functional aviation battalion. We have UH-60's and 58D's working together. This is the first time that has ever been done under one battalion headquarters. Plus, it is the first time that a (U.S. Army) National Guard battalion has commanded active duty companies. And the mix that we have in this task force is just astronomical," said Kelly.
The mix is extremely diverse with units coming from areas such as Virginia (UH-60's), Louisiana (58D's), and Texas (Air Traffic Services). All the units have come together under the symbol of Pegasus.
Although the unit is composed of a wide range of personnel from many different backgrounds, all the aircrew display a universal desire to fly, in spite of the Bosnian weather.
"We get a lot of flight time here. At home we are required to fly a minimum of 96 hours a year, and with budget restraints some guys only get to fly 96 hours. Here the average pilot has flown 130 hours in six months. Some guys are up to 200 hours; they'll do two years worth of flying in six months over here, " said Chief Warrant Officer Delmar Kidd, maintenance pilot. Kidd was instructing Russo on his flight, however the amount of flying time offers opportunities for all to improve.
"People become more proficient - the more you fly the better you are. I am a maintenance pilot and I have progressed to the next level here - a maintenance examiner. That way I have the ability to give flight checks to other maintenance pilots," said Kidd. Russo echoed his comments, "You practice to keep your edge. That way you can do the mission well."
It's not just the pilots who enjoy flying, however, "I like the scenery here, it's a lot different from Virginia, where it's all flat," said Sgt. John Rivera, crew chief. Rivera is part of the team that ensures that the mission is achieved. He helps the pilots navigate, prepares the aircraft and is ready to man the gun, in case of trouble.
The team reaches beyond the aircrew, as engineers ensure that the vehicles are air-worthy and soldiers work hard to refuel and rearm the helicopters quickly.
As Russo lands he does so with the backing of a team that comes from a diverse background, which in this case is a strength, not a weakness.
"We've all come together as a solid task force able to accomplish the mission here in BiH. Each one of these organisations brings robust capabilities that really makes us an A1 task force," said Kelly.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US
Training and Exercises

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Photos: PO Steve Wood

Getting the last information before taking of.

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Members of the Task Force Pegasus dream team.

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The mission starts at sunrise.

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On Feb. 4, members of American Task Force Pegasus (TFP) flew a training mission over mountains near Tuzla. Such missions ensure that the crews are ready for operations.