Task Force Falcon – ‘Ruthlessly pursue the enemy’

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The commander, command sergeant major and a standardization pilot from Task Force Falcon said that their mission was to conduct full-spectrum aviation operations throughout Regional Command – East during Operation Enduring Freedom 10 in Afghanistan in order to neutralize anti-Afghan forces, protect the population and provide freedom of maneuver throughout the area of operations.

Speaking Jan. 14 on a panel discussing "The CAB Commander’s Experience in the Warfight" at the Association of the United States Army’s Aviation Symposium and Exposition at National Harbor, Md., Col. Donald N. Galli, commander of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) (Task Force Falcon), 3rd Infantry Division, said, "Starting with our pre-deployment training, the intent of our task force is to fly smart, shoot straight, speak the truth and never leave your wingman."

Adding, "We also intend to never leave troops in contact, to take extraordinary measures to save an American soldier’s life and to ruthlessly pursue the enemy and defeat them."

As the United States turns over more warfighting and security responsibilities and operations over to the host country, Galli said the Combined Action Program – training with the Afghans is essential.

Task Force Falcon, in conjunction with the 438th Combined Air Power Transition Force, established and conducted the Combined Action Program with Afghan national security forces to enable tactical operations as combined action teams and future independent Afghan formations.

To accomplish this combined action, the CAB established crew chief, air assault and flight medic academies with the Afghanistan Air Force (AAF).

"We also engaged in close combat attacks and tactical missions with the AAF," Galli said. "Our training focused on how to execute dangerous mission sets and how to deal with risk management. Who owns the risk; focus on where the risk is being assumed. We train the Afghans to fight the fight."

Adding, "The combat aviation brigade is enemy-focused – find the enemy first before the enemy finds us. Where are the enemy’s gaps and seams."

The success of Task Force Falcon – 60 percent reduction of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along Highway 1 in four months, 69 enemy killed, responsible for 72 percent of the enemy’s casualties.

Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Stidley said three important elements went into the undeniable success of Task Force Falcon and its mission in Afghanistan: Standards of discipline and safety, task force organization and soldier training.

"In all my 38 year of service," Stidley said, "I am most proud of my service with the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade – Task Force Falcon."

Adding, "We brought every single soldier back with us who left with us. There were no [fatal] accidents, no suicides."

The brigade also cross trained many of its soldiers so they were capable of assuming new positions and new tasks competently, if the need arose.

For example, much needed helicopter door gunners are not part of the brigade’s structure, so soldiers in other specialties were cross trained to fill these slots.

CW5 Bryan Christopher Batt, a standardization pilot, said, "Risk management must be a continuing process. This is the toughest terrain I have ever flown in – the weather, the mountains, the enemy – all tough."

Batt flew combat missions in Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Adding, "For example, medevac launch criteria and procedures are important. We must accept all risks regardless of the level of risk."

Also important to risk management, and to the soldiers’ survivability is the aircrew equipment to include body armor, the survival vest, the oxygen system in the aircraft, and the weapons and ammunition.