Aviation Company Commander on Mission...and Motivation

Capt. Kurt Blankenship
Capt. Kurt Blankenship
A Chinook takes off from the Baghdad International Airport. (US Army night video)
A Chinook takes off from the Baghdad International Airport. (US Army night video)

Soldiers from Savannah's Hunter Army Airfield are taking to the skies to keep their comrades off the dangerous roads. The Third Infantry Division's workhorse helicopter, the Chinook, flies only at night out of Baghdad International Airport.

We spoke with the commander of Bravo Company 2-3 Aviation, Capt. Kurt Blankenship, via satellite Thursday about his mission and his motivation.

"As soon as the sun goes down, we send anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of our aircraft out every night," he told us. "The primary mission that we do is battlefield circulation. That's just movements of large numbers of personnel in and around the Baghdad area."

And not just personnel. With small all-terrain vehicles and even Humvees safe in the belly of a CH-47, the soldiers of Bravo Company carry the gear of war to the enemy, from Baghdad as far south as Basra and north to Balad.

"What makes it nice for [the ground troops] is they can take equipment into an object that normally they would have to drive," said Capt. Blankenship. "And every time we fly, that's what we're doing...we're keeping soldiers off the roads here.

"That's a good feeling for us, because everyone knows how dangerous it is to drive in Iraq," he added.

But they too risk enemy fire each time they fly, and Blankenship says the soldiers depend on support from the home front. "It's crucially important. Almost as important as food and sleep, I would say. Probably the high point of any of my soldiers' day is to come check to see, you know, what kind of mail they've gotten."

Which helps keep them going for another night.

Capt. Blankenship deployed for this, his second tour, in May. When asked if he had any message for those back home on whose support he and his soldiers depend, he told us:

"For all the friends and family members of Bravo Company 2-3 Aviation, the whole Hercules teams appreciate your whole support. And personally, I'd just like to say hello to my wife Erin and my nine-month-old daughter Brooke."

Reported by: Charles Gray, cgray@wtoc.com