MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- The distant sound of an unseen helicopter echoes as it creeps across the desert to drop-off Marines and soldiers for training exercises.
These dark birds of the night belong to the Virginia Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, of Richmond, Va. They are the UH-60 Blackhawks. A helicopter made famous from movie publicity and nighttime insertions during several different operations post Vietnam War.
The battalion of Blackhawks joined Marines at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., for the 12 days of Exercise Desert Talon to refine skills they have learned and to strengthen their relationship with the Marines they will be working with from the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing in Iraq.
The battalion checked into MCAS Yuma for pre-deployment training Nov. 19 and attached to Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd MAW, to further train in joint operations in a desert environment.
"Joint operations training is a good experience, considering we have and will continue working side-by-side with Marines throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Billy Milliken, pilot, 2-224th AVN.
The unit has an extensive training schedule that it holds to while at MCAS Yuma. They will train using several different scenarios such as insertions, casualty evacuations, supply drops, convoy support, and equipment and troop relocation.
Marines work with Army pilots and crewmembers everyday, whether it is lending a hand servicing aircraft or catching a ride to a drop point for training.
"This is a very good opportunity for us to get to know the other side of the military that we will be working with while deployed to Iraq over the next year," said Cpl. David A. Foraker, aviation ground support equipment, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, 2nd MAW.
For Yuma residents, the UH-60 is an unusual sight. They are used to seeing the CH-46 Sea Knight, the CH-53E Super Stallion and several different fixed wing aircraft such as the F-5 Tiger, the AV-8B Harrier, and the F/A-18 Hornet fly through the sky overhead.
The Blackhawk unit has seen it's fair share of operations over the years. They have been involved in NATO peacekeeping operations in Bosnia, several joint training operations across the world and soon Operation Iraqi Freedom.
While strengthening their camaraderie during Desert Talon, soldiers with 2-224th AVN and Marines with 3rd MAW have prepared to operate side by side in a joint environment, ensuring a successful deployment to Iraq.