officer, scout platoon leader and pilot Brian Hummel ’01
stands by his
AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter in Afghanistan.
calls come in all day. Friendly units are in contact with Taliban and
al-Qaida fighters. They request “close air support.” Intelligence
reports there is a platoon of infantry
soldiers engaged by approximately 30 Taliban fighters. The soldiers are
trapped and need assistance fast.
They are completely surrounded and already have one injured soldier.
The Apache crew arrives on station and begins to build situational awareness.
Within minutes they identify all known friendly locations and fighting
positions; then they engage.
They suppress and destroy enemy fighters with 30 mm and 2.75-inch
rockets. The enemy fights back, firing at the crew’s aircraft
with rocket propelled grenades, surface to air missiles, and a barrage
of small arms fire.
The friendly forces begin to advance. The crew covers their
movement to the higher ground, and the enemy begins to retreat. The
focus now becomes the wounded soldier…
This is a typical day on Quick Reactionary Force (QRF) in Afghanistan
for Brian Hummel ’01, an Army officer, scout platoon leader (first
platoon) and pilot. Although he calls it a “mock mission,” it
is based on a real QRF mission he flew as air mission commander of the
Commanding the flight during missions, he says, is “by far the
highlight of being an officer in Army aviation and has the most payoffs.” As
air mission commander of an AH-64D Longbow Troop deployed to Afghanistan
to support Operation Enduring Freedom VI, Hummel, 26, manages all phases
of the operation: planning, preparation, execution and recovery.
During the planning phase, he receives the latest information
on weather conditions, and enemy and friendly situations. “Air support,” or
close combat attacks, are provided during the execution phase, as well
as security, reconnaissance and several other types of support to the
While the execution phase involves supporting the ground
and air convoys (friendly elements) with firepower when they come in
contact with enemy forces, such “close air
support” is not conducted on every mission. In fact, says Hummel,
the presence of the Apache and its crews alone stops the enemy from
attacking. “The enemy thinks the Apache was sent straight from
the devil,” he says.
Finally, during the recovery phase, he and his troop
conduct after-action reviews and begin planning for their next mission.
Flights are long, lasting anywhere from three to eight
fly both day and night and my schedule changes reflecting what mission
cycle I am on,” Hummel says. “We try to abide by a routine
but it only lasts for two weeks, and then we reverse out to a new shift.”
But no matter how many responsibilities Hummel has
as first platoon leader, operations officer, air mission commander and
pilot, he says he enjoys his job. “I never thought I would end
up where I am today, but I know now, through experience, I would never
give any of it back.”
Although he has a job he enjoys, Hummel says there
are some cons to being an officer in the Army.
“We work long hours
and can’t really
adhere to a strict duty timeline. Training is intense, especially with
our current situation in both wars. Most of my soldiers fought in Iraq,
came home for one year and are back at war again in Afghanistan.”
In addition, Hummel says being in an Army at war can
be very hard on family life. “We
train hard in garrison in order to be successful during our deployment.
Then we deploy away from our families for a year.” There are only
three types of soldiers today, he says: those at war, those going to
war and those just returning from war.
Hummel joined the Army during his
sophomore year at Albright. “I was always
interested in the Army so I decided to try ROTC,” he says. But since Albright
didn’t offer the
program, he joined Lehigh University’s ROTC, and completed his officer
training the summer after graduating from Albright.
“I always knew I wanted to fly so I requested the aviation branch out of
school,” Hummel says. He attended the Army’s initial entry rotary
wing course at Fort Rucker, Ala. “The course was a year long.
I graduated second in my class
and chose to fly the AH-64D Apache Longbow,” he says.
As scout platoon leader of the first platoon, Hummel
is responsible for the leadership,
training, professional development, discipline, morale and welfare for
officer, eight warrant officers and 10 enlisted
soldiers and their families. In addition, he is accountable for the maintenance,
technical and tactical employment of four AH-64D Longbow attack helicopters.
“My primary responsibility is to train and lead
my platoon in combat, focusing on aviation, maintenance, proficiency
training and combat mission readiness in a hostile environment, he says. “On
top of all this, I serve as a fully functional, technically and tactically
proficient, dual seat AH-64D pilot, capable of employing the AH-64D in
all flight conditions.”
But during deployment, Hummel has
different duties as operations officer, such as overseeing QRF and commanding
flights during missions.
“I manage a very demanding and ever changing
flight schedule based around supporting the ground units,” Hummel
says. “It’s very fluid
and changes often and rapidly. It is essential to our day-to-day operations
and is the backbone of our mission here in Afghanistan.”
Hummel, a chemistry and sociology major, says he honed
his leadership skills at Albright. “It was extremely challenging
and taught me my first lessons in task prioritization and time
management,” he says.
Ultimately, though, it was his interest in the Army
and passion for flying that drew Hummel to his chosen career. “I never saw myself as a ‘suit
and tie’ kind of person,” he says. “I’m the
type of person who gets bored easily and thrives on different challenges
to keep me going.
Most rewarding, is knowing you have saved soldiers’ lives.
Ground Commander calls for an urgent medevac. The Apache crew relays
back to their headquarters and they launch the medevac helicopter, a
Blackhawk. They arrive on station in less than 30 minutes accompanied
with two CH-47 Chinook helicopters to exfiltrate the rest of the platoon.
The medevac lands, evacs the wounded
soldier and heads to the nearest hospital. The Chinooks are next; one
at a time they land and exfill as many infantry soldiers as they can.
Lift one is up and out, lift two is in. They load up, and they are up
and out too.
Finally, the crew is landing Zone Clear; all helicopters
are airborne and are heading back to Kandahar.
– Joshua R. Grandy ’06