Jefferson City National Guard unit builds unique helicopter mockup

Soldiers of the 138th Forward Support Company in Jefferson City
created an all-steel mockup of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.

By Bill Phelan

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - For Soldiers of the Army infantry getting in and out of helicopters is a regular part of training and a crucial element in many combat missions.

"One of the biggest challenges we run into during air assault missions is how much time we spend on the ground," said Lt. Col. Kevin Fujimoto, of St. Louis, commander of the Missouri National Guard's 1st Battalion, 138th Infantry Regiment. "The less time the aircraft spends on the ground the less time it spends as a target."

With that sobering thought in mind Soldiers of the 138th Forward Support Company in Jefferson City created an all-steel mockup of the Army's airborne workhorse, the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.

Because real helicopters are not always available, Fujimoto said the mockup will be a valuable training tool.

"The Soldiers can practice loading and unloading the aircraft with all of their combat equipment and go through rehearsals if a decision is made to board the aircraft on one side or both sides," Fujimoto said. "They can also practice downed aircraft procedures. This (mockup) will just make all of that so much easier."

Capt. Kenneth E. Neubert, of Vienna, was in charge of the mockup project, which he said was built with "shade tree engineering" over a 10-day period.

"The aviation units let us crawl around in one of their birds configured for troop hauling so we took measurements from that," Neubert explained. "So the mockup consists of a tubular steel frame built to the dimensions of the cargo bay of a Blackhawk with the troop-seating configuration. There is no tail or nose on it."

Usually assigned to field maintenance operations, Neubert said welders of the 138th considered the project a unique challenge.

"I must admit I was a little apprehensive," he said, "but the project turned out really well. They did a great job."

"They did a phenomenal job," added Fujimoto. "It far exceeded my expectations. They manufactured an inexpensive helicopter mockup that they can reproduce quickly."

While other helicopter mockups consist of plywood platforms with seats, Neubert said he is unaware of anything similar to the mockup built by the 138th.

If given the green light to do so, Neubert said he hopes to build two or three additional mockups for use at National Guard armories around the state.

The 1-138th Infantry Regiment is headquartered in Kansas City and maintains units in St. Louis, Boonville, Perryville, Monett, Anderson and Jefferson City.

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