Teamwork and dedication: From the ground to the sky

U.S. Army Spc. Todd Gann, 1-135th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion aircraft maintainer, inspects the main rotor head of an AH-64 Apache at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 9, 2014. Soldiers perform this inspection annually to ensure there are no signs of corrosion developing, which could cause malfunctions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Todd Gann, 1-135th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion aircraft maintainer, inspects the main rotor head of an AH-64 Apache at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 9, 2014. Soldiers perform this inspection annually to ensure there are no signs of corrosion developing, which could cause malfunctions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Todd Gann, 1-135th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion aircraft maintainer, checks for axial play within the bushing of an AH-64 Apache at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 9, 2014. This inspection ensures that aircraft maintains its structural integrity while in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Todd Gann, 1-135th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion aircraft maintainer, checks for axial play within the bushing of an AH-64 Apache at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 9, 2014. This inspection ensures that aircraft maintains its structural integrity while in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Todd Gann, 1-135th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion aircraft maintainer, checks bearings for axial movement within the tail of an AH-64
Apache at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 9, 2014. This inspection ensures the aircraft will maintain its stability while in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Todd Gann, 1-135th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion aircraft maintainer, checks bearings for axial movement within the tail of an AH-64 Apache at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 9, 2014. This inspection ensures the aircraft will maintain its stability while in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry/Released)

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Robert Moore, 1-135th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion aviation safety officer, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Peyton Supernaw, 1-135th ARB aviation material officer,perform environmental training at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 9, 2014. This training helps pilots master landing in whiteout conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry/Released)

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Robert Moore, 1-135th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion aviation safety officer, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Peyton Supernaw, 1-135th ARB aviation material officer,perform environmental training at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 9, 2014. This training helps pilots master landing in whiteout conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Keenan Berry/Released)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- From the maintenance hangars to the skies, the AH-64 Apache helicopter spends its time being prepped for flight and training here at Whiteman.

The Apache is a weapon system equipped with a nose-mounted sensor suited for target acquisition, night-vision systems and a 30-mm M230 chain gun.

The U.S. Army 1-135th ARB pilots and maintainers are tasked with flying and working on this unique aircraft.

While the pilots engage in training exercises, the maintainers inspect, repair and maintain the aircraft to ensure it is safe for any and all missions.

"I handle administrative management, mission planning and training," said U.S. Army Maj. Fin Carey, 1-135th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion instructor pilot supervisor. "As the pilot supervisor, I get out there with the junior pilots to help train them on how to maneuver the aircraft with efficiency."

When not deployed, once a week, the 1-135th ARB conducts training with the 303rd Fighter Squadron pilots to perform tactical training exercises. Mission planning for these exercises is important because it helps the battalion coordinate with units like the 303rd FS pilots and ensures the Apache teams incorporate other DOD assets like the A-10 Thunderbolt II into their operations.

The maintenance side of the 1-135th ARB ensures the aircraft are prepared after every flight, checking for corrosion, damaged parts and any other issues that might hinder the mission.

"As the maintenance team leader, I oversee all maintenance issues and inspections," said Sgt. Maj. David Cox, 1-135th ARB maintenance supervisor. "All aircraft are inspected daily in accordance to the inspection tables, which are guidelines on what needs to be looked at on the aircraft."

Inspection forms are required during each inspection to mark discrepancies found on the aircraft. After the inspection, crews compile the forms to see what needs repair. If there are parts the maintenance crew is unable to repair, they send work orders to higher level maintenance.

The pilots fly consistently to ensure they retain knowledge and become more skilled at operating the aircraft.

Learning to pilot this aircraft is not as easy as some might assume, said Carey.

"It's exciting to fly this unique aircraft," said Carey. "It's a bit of a learning curve at first, but in time pilots get the hang of it. The training is approximately one year for flight school; pilots go through an Apache-specific course that is two months long. After pilots return to the unit, they go through another one to two years of mission progression training."

Throughout this training, the pilots learn about how the systems, engines, hydraulics and electronics function on the aircraft, as well as about aircraft tactical deployment involving flight control radar and how to employ it in combat situations. They also learn how to send digital traffic and radio communications.

The pilots and maintainers work hand-in-hand to get the job done and to ensure the aircraft functions safely to complete the mission.

"At the end of the day, what matters most is safety," said Cox. "My job is to make sure the guys on the ground are doing their part safely and efficiently, so the guys in the sky can do their part. It's one team, one fight to complete the mission!"

(Editor's Note: This article was updated Jan. 31, 2014)