Guam Guard gears-up with new aviation unit - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Guam Guard gears-up with new aviation unit

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KUAM News got up close and personal with the newest addition to the Guam National Guard family - two helicopters that make up its new Aviation Unit. It was four years in the making, and today the Guam Guard family showed off their newest additions: two UH-72a helicopters.

The vehicles are the centerfold of the Guard's new 23-man team of aviators and medics. Director of Aviation and Safety Lieutenant Colonel Bill Breeze said, "The unit was brought here to provide homeland security, homeland defense in times of natural disasters. The unit's basic capabilities are medivac operations, and it's go-to-war mission, and also land search and rescue."

He says one of the most complex missions the unit will be able to perform is a hoist at night using night vision goggles, explaining, "We have a hoist on the side of the helicopter that can lift 600 pounds, so if we had someone that was stranded out in the jungle or somewhere that's inaccessible by foot or by the Guam Fire Department, we could go in and hoist an individual down to treat them, take care of them, then we could lift them out of that area."

The lieutenant colonel says the team is ready to go. In fact, earlier this year Warrant Officers Brian Enderes and Sarah Uchida completed 18 months of flight training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, becoming the Guam National Guard's first two homegrown pilots. Uchida said, "I love being up there, it's a challenge, which is what I love too, it challenges you every day, you've always got to be studying, staying in the books, it's repetition...it's good fun, too!"

Other members of the aviation team include flight operations Sergeant April Schacher, who said, "It feels really good to be part of something new I like being involved in the Aviation Unit and just seeing all the operations everyday." And aircraft mechanic Corporal Marvin Mafnas added, "As an avionics mechanic, I maintain the radios, radar, internal wiring, diagrams and all that. And everyday is something new so we're never bored you know, we're always learning something and we're grasping that concept of aviation."

The team will undergo a 9-12 month certification process before it can begin performing support missions. The unit will be fully operational by mid-2016 and a new 6,300-square foot helicopter hangar at the Guam National Guard Readiness Center in Barrigada is expected to be completed by next March.

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