Story and photo by Sgt. Jonathan C. Thibault
4th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
From seasoned pilots to fresh out of flight school, aviators with 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, certified on Readiness Level Progression training at Butts Army Airfield on Fort Carson, Feb. 7.
RLP training is given to new, uncertified pilots and annually to certified pilots to test their aircraft proficiencies.
There are three levels of the training. RL3, uncertified, involves pilots, accompanied by a senior instructor pilot, doing basic maneuvers and learning to fly in formations with other helicopters. Level two involves mission-oriented training and RL1, certified, is where pilots can fly without instructor pilots and are considered ready for missions.
RLP training teaches pilots to be safe whether they are in a garrison environment or combat zone. They learn to fly according to Army regulations and Federal Aviation Administration standards, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 James Dowdy, battalion standardization officer and brigade senior CH-47 Chinook pilot, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th CAB.
“This is the foundation for all new pilots and is the most important training throughout their military career,” said Dowdy. “This training sets the stage for the pilots for the rest of their careers. RLP training is serious and significant, because if we don’t do a good job on their training; it could possibly fail them later down the line.”
Six 4th CAB pilots and multiple flight engineers are training with aviators from 21st Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat) from Fort Hood, Texas. In addition to RLP training, they will qualify the senior pilots to instruct High Altitude Mountain Environmental Training, which is required to fly in the mountainous terrain surrounding Fort Carson.
“I have been instructing here for two weeks and training has been great,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jess McGee, Chinook instructor pilot and HAMET instructor, 21st Cav. Bde. (Air Combat). “The pilots that we are training are doing well above average.
The pilots and their crew members’ morale and motivation are high and ready to train.”
“This training helps us get on our feet,” said Capt. Sean Pearl, commander, Company B, 2nd GSAB, 4th Avn. Reg. “Our standardization and instructor pilots require the HAMET qualification, and we need the 21st Cav. to train them. This will allow us to become self-sufficient and be able to train our own.”
New pilots are required to attend RLP training because they are arriving to the CAB from flight school and are only RL3 certified. They are receiving RLP training for the first time, and are taught slowly through each readiness level. They also have not flown any helicopters since flight school and have always been accompanied by an instructor pilot. During RLP training, they will be re-evaluated on everything they learned in school.
“I’m a little nervous about going through RLP because I have not been on the flight controls since flight school in October,” said 1st Lt. Manuel Ledezma Vera, CH-47 Chinook pilot, Company B, 2nd GSAB, 4th Avn. Reg. “I’m not too nervous though because the warrant officers training us have thousands of hours of experience. This is a very technical job and this is excellent training that supports it.”
Certified pilots and pilots switching to a different type of helicopter are also required to go through RLP training upon arrival to a new duty station to show they are proficient in the aircraft they are going to fly.
These pilots are given a fast-paced type of training as opposed to the slow training method given to new pilots.
“I was originally trained to be a Chinook pilot,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Josh Mattimore, Chinook pilot, 2nd GSAB, 4th Avn. Reg. “I have been flying UH-72 Lakota helicopters for the last three years. This training is important since I have not flown Chinooks in a while. I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.”
After more pilots are RLP certified, CAB personnel will be able to certify their own pilots. Once more helicopters and pilots arrive; the brigade hopes to pick up missions that will help support Colorado Springs, such as high-altitude rescue missions and missions to help put out wildfires, called Bambi bucket missions.