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Minnesota National Guard
Minnesota Soldiers prepare Canadian Airmen for upcoming deployment

"I wanted to deploy to Afghanistan," said Capt Sebastien Lapierre-Guay, a Canadian Air Force pilot "The only sure path to get there was to do this"

Lapierre-Guay is referring to the challenging career transition he and more than 60 of his collegues in the Canadian Air Force have recently taken on, and what has led some of them to Minnesota for two weeks of hands-on training in CH-47 Chinook helicopters

After being present in Afghanistan since 2002, a need developed for Canadian Forces to have their own medium-lift helicopter capabilities

"Our government recently decided to buy Chinooks for the Air Force," said Lapierre-Guay "Unfortunately, it's going to take a few years for us to get those Chinooks But meanwhile we still need support in Afghanistan"

Because of this, these Canadian Airmen with thousands of hours spent piloting, engineering, and maintaining other aircrafts, have volunteered to undergo months of condensed training to learn as much as they could about the Chinook

Master Cpl Ray Zivkow said he wants to do whatever he can to ensure that the ground forces in Afghanistan have the air support they need

"When I found out we were going over with Chinooks, I figured it's my part I could do to save one or two extra convoys," said Zivkow, a flight engineer with 26 years in the Canadian Air Force

With deployment just around the corner in early 2009, real-world scenarios and in-depth training is imperative to preparing these Airmen for what lies ahead

Soldiers in Minnesota National Guard's 2nd General Support Avaition Battalion 211th Aviation play a large role in Canada's mission by training the Airmen in an operation called "Canadian Seasoning"

"The name of the program is "˜Seasoning' "  to get these guys some flight time in what they'll actually be experiencing," explained Chief Warrant Officer Paul Adamson

Having spent some time in primary flight training to become familiarized with the Chinook, the Airmen are excited to be putting into practice many of the operational training tasks they will be utilizing in theater This includes anything from loading and unloading cargo to combat maneuvering

They are also learning how to use an electronic data manager which not only allows them to see a moving map display, but also allows them to communicate with a tactical operations center so if they get en route mission changes, they know how to respond

"In primary flight training it was basically like we're doing circuits," said Capt Nicholas Noel de Tilly, a Canadian Air Force pilot "Here we're learning how to fly the aircraft more instinctively and how to feel it"

Cpl Chris Sample, flight engineer in the Canadian Air Force, agreed

"When you come to a place like this they say, "˜We're going to land on a pinnacle We're going to do an internal load,'" Sample said  "You get to do the stuff you're going to be doing"

Adamson credits the success of the training to not only the instructors, but to the seasoned Airmen who are being taught

"We kind of get the best of both worlds," Adamson said "We get guys who want to learn Chinooks and they're eager students, but they've also got over a thousand hours of helicopter time"¦These guys want to know real, specific, Chinook-world stuff, and they can relate it to helicopters that they've flown before"

It isn't only flight-specific lessons the Airmen are taking away from this training

"I'm kind of like a walking sponge right now," said Zivkow of his time spent working with Minnesota Soldiers "It's not just the flying, it's not just the mechanics I've never been [to Afghanistan] So I'm asking people who have been there, "˜Okay, on the other side of the house, what should I expect?'"
The Soldiers are happy to offer their advice After all, it wasn't long ago they were in the same situation

"When we started flying Chinooks and had to deploy in six months, our learning curve was really steep also," explained Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Jacobs, one of the instructors who deployed with the 2-211 to Iraq  "All those questions we asked of other units before we left - we're trying to pass on the knowledge to these guys so that they don't learn the lessons the hard way  Not to mention, we're all fighting the Global War on Terrorism"

Although the training doesn't end here, the instructors and students feel that this training is an important stepping stone to prepare the Airmen for their upcoming deployment

"That's really the goal of what we're trying to do here " To get these guys to the next step so they can say, "˜You know this feels similar, I think I've seen something like this before' That's going to be key," Adamson said

"Without these guys it's basically like throwing you in a pool of water without any floats on," Zivkow explained "If you don't know how to swim, you're not going to make it" "This training will have a tremendous impact," said Lapierre-Guay "We cannot stress this enough We're really grateful for that

By Pfc Stephanie Cassinos,
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
September 26, 2008

Minnesota Soldiers prepare Canadian Airmen for upcoming deployment - Low-Res

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