June 5, 2018? ?Today, I’m honored to write about the special men and women who pilot the Apache helicopter.? Not only does their mission require grit and a higher brain trust… but also relentless courage to fly into the face of the enemy.? With that, I interviewed one such Apache pilot.? And wouldn’t you know it, not long afterwards, my oldest son trained and became an Apache pilot as well.? Larry Fowler, USMilitary.com
There are few things that strike fear in the hearts of enemy combatants and insurgents than the sound of an Apache helicopter. The Apache is one of four helicopters used by the Army (the others are the Chinook, the Blackhawk and the Kiowa) and it is the Army’s premier combat proven helicopter.
In fact, the mere sound of fast approaching twisting rotor blades of an Apache reaks spontaneous fears in its enemy. Like no other.
But for Chief Warrant Officer, Elton Wise, a day in the hot seat of the Apache is another day at the office — only his office might just be in the middle of a combat zone in the Middle East.
Life During Deployment
While in theater (deployment), Mr. Wise’s day starts like any other. He gets up a few hours before his 12 hour shift starts and takes care of personal matters before making his way over to his helicopter. Well before takeoff, he starts the aircraft to ensure that everything is in working order. As long as everything is running smoothly and there’s a mission planned, he hops in and takes off to help protect the American forces below.
“My biggest accomplishment of being an Apache pilot is when a young soldier comes in from an outlying FOB (outlying outpost) and he tells me that because of the work that my unit does overhead, he feels safe, if only for that 30 minute period during the day. The best reward I could get is the admiration and appreciation of my fellow soldiers,” said Mr. Wise.
Although he never tires of the rush that happens after he’s back on the ground, after nearly nine years the actual flying portion has become second nature, like driving a car. This is where Mr. Wise’s extensive training has served him well.
Like other helicopter pilots (and pilots in general) the majority of his time is spent planning and preparing for the mission and then debriefing superiors once the mission is completed. This helps ensure that his fellow pilots and other military personnel can have the most up to date information when it’s their turn up in the helicopters.
“Down range, of that 12 hour day, on average I spend three or four hours flying. The other eight hours are usually spent either planning or preparing to execute the mission, studying up on the systems of the aircraft or debriefing the mission that I’d already executed. That’s one thing that future aviators should understand about Army aviation and civilian aviation. You spend much more time being a pilot on the ground than you actually do in the aircraft,” said Mr. Wise.
Back In The U.S.
Upon returning home from deployment, Mr. Wise took a new position within the Army. He’s currently serving as a TAC (Training, Advising and Counseling) officer at the Warrant Officer Candidate School in Fort Rucker, Alabama. He’s responsible for training and mentoring young enlisted and civilian candidates who want to become warrant officers. One of the biggest lessons he wants young soldiers to realize is that they need to work together as a team and look out for each other.
“Being in the military should be more than about just you. You’re part of a team. When you’re just two soldiers in a foxhole, you’re part of a team and that team is part of a squad. Being in the military, you need to embrace the team concept and put your personal needs aside and work for the betterment of the team.”
Mr. Wise has plenty of advice for young people who are interested in becoming an Army helicopter pilot through the warrant officer program. His top piece of advice? Interested candidates need to find leadership opportunities, but never forget that it’s also important to know when to follow someone else.
“Participate in ROTC, student councils and anything that puts you in charge of other people, but also be a leader/follower. In the military, no matter how high you go, a four star general still has a boss. We all answer to someone,” said Mr. Wise.
Education is also important. Young people interested in becoming a warrant officer should take advantage of every educational opportunity that comes their way. This means attending a two year or four year college or finding certification programs that can set applicants apart from others who are also applying to the program. This goes for both civilians who want to become a warrant officer and those who come up from the enlisted ranks.
He also stresses how important physical fitness is to the entire fighting force, but admits that video games are useful in developing the necessary hand/eye coordination to work the advanced controls of the helicopters. It’s also vital to know how to communicate with others so that they know what you’re thinking — video game skills aren’t enough training for future helicopter pilots in the Army. They spend nine weeks in Basic Combat Training before moving onto six weeks of Warrant Officer Candidate School and communication skills can help them throughout their training. Only after complete BCT and WOCS do they move on to flight school, where they receive specialized training in one of the four helicopters.
During his own flight school, Mr. Wise wanted to fly Chinooks and he was initially nervous about going home to tell his wife he was assigned to the Apache attack helicopter. Thankfully, she was supportive and he’s never regretted the way his life has turned out.
“I either fly Apaches or I don’t fly.”