Afghan-bound Chinooks fielded through efforts of 21st TSC

by Capt. Greg Jones
21st TSC Public Affairs

At 26 tons, with two turbine engines, and with the capability of hauling 12 tons of payload, the CH-47F Chinook heavy transport helicopter is one of the heaviest rotary wing aircraft in the U.S. military.

A dozen of these heavy haulers were delivered to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade April 14 through the combined efforts of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, U.S. Army Europe Headquarters, 405th Army Field Support Brigade, 598th Transportation Brigade, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, Department of the Army and other organizations.

The CH-47 helicopters recently delivered to the 12th CAB are of the “F” variety, the latest in a series of Chinook helicopters, which have been in service since the beginning of the Vietnam War. This version of the Chinook offers numerous improvements, including its avionics and navigational package, which give the crew increased situational awareness, said Maj. Shane Morris with the aviation branch of the Program Executive Office (a department of the Army organization that organizes fielding of new equipment).

Moving these new Chinooks through theater is not necessarily a new mission for the various logisticians, transporters and aviation experts who were involved in this operation, which is just one of many major shipments of aviation equipment the Theater Aviation Sustainment Manager-Europe supports, but these operations are never easy, as some sort of challenge always seems to arise

“This organization has been involved with the incoming and outgoing of all rotary wing aircraft since World War II,” said Lt. Col. Kye Allen, the commander of TASM-E. “Whether it is via strategic airlift, line haul or sea-going vessel, the TASM-E has ’touched’ all aircraft movements in the theater and without incident or accident.”

The helicopters were moved via a combination of heavy land transport, sea-going vessel, river vessel and even being towed on their own wheels down a four-lane divided German highway at just a little bit faster than jogging speed.

Their journey began at the Boeing Factory in Philadelphia, where these helicopters are manufactured. They moved from there to the Port of Baltimore by land transport. In Baltimore they were loaded onto a large sea-going cargo ship where they spent a three-week voyage across the Atlantic, alongside service members’ cars and other military and non-military cargo.

After the sea voyage, the helicopters were off-loaded from the sea vessel and transferred to a river barge. The helicopters were so large they had to be moved in two shipments of six. Upon arriving in Lampertsheim, Germany, after a 2 1/2-day journey down the Rhine River, the helicopters were offloaded at a barge site regularly used by the 598th Transportation Brigade.

At about $30 million each, these helicopters, though not delicate, are quite valuable cargo, and care is taken in every aspect of their movement. Major Morris, a veteran Chinook pilot, was sent by PEO to help ensure effective delivery to the customer unit, the 12th CAB. Acting as a sort of customer service representative and subject matter expert, Major Morris observed all of the stages of the shipment and coordinated directly with the receiving unit to make sure the end-user got what they were expecting. For Major Morris, the mission took on a nearly personal importance as he helped facilitate the delivery of these helicopters to his fellow aviators.

“It’s a great feeling seeing those aircraft floating down the Rhine River knowing they are going to Soldiers giving them the latest technology,” said Major Morris, referring to the river vessel that carried the helicopters from Antwerp to Coleman barracks.

The helicopters, now delivered to the 12th CAB in Ansbach, will soon see combat service during the brigade’s upcoming deployment to Afghanistan — a deployment now enabled with brand new CH-47 Chinooks through the combined efforts of the 21st TSC and its various partner organizations.