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NEWS | Dec. 5, 2022

Michigan National Guard Chinook unit reflects of 20 years of service

By Staff Sgt. Jacob Cessna Michigan National Guard Public Affairs

On Sept. 22, 2002, the Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF) #2 stood-up at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, in Harrison Township, Michigan, with only 16 members forming the unit. By Sept. 2003, after a year's worth of training, the AASF #2 received its first CH-47 Chinook helicopters. At the time, they were a unit of only seven Chinooks.

“The aircraft itself allows us to do so many different things for the ground force commander," said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Mark Tyler, one of the original 16 members of the AASF #2, now Aviation Logistics Management Officer and State Aviation Safety Officer. "With regards to what we can haul, you can fit a full-size F-150 in that aircraft. We can be a flying gas station, or we can go to a forward arming and refueling point, ahead of everybody else, set up a gas station to where they can continue their mission even beyond their normal capability. We can be a flying hospital, you can put 24 liters in there, doctors and nurses can work on patients while they're inside the aircraft. Not to mention that we can carry 33 combat-equipped troops.”

From carrying cargo to troop transport, from day one, the AASF #2 would strive to be a force multiplier by supporting unit assigned personnel and equipment for the ground force commander, wherever they went. In Jan. 2004, the unit, assigned Detachment 1, Company G, 185th Heavy Helicopter, mobilized and deployed to Iraq from Jan. 2004 to March 2005. This marked the first time that an aviation unit in the state of Michigan had deployed to a combat zone, but it wouldn’t be the last.

The unit, now designated Detachment 1, Company B, 3-238th General Support Aviation Battalion, would later deploy to Afghanistan from Nov. 2011 to Nov. 2012, and again from 2015 to 2016. From 2020 to 2021 the AASF #2 deployed to Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia, all in one deployment.

In addition to Middle East deployments, they also assisted with stateside natural disaster relief, responding to Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, Hurricane Harvey, and the Newberry fires, which occurred in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Since its inception 20 years earlier, the AASF #2 has grown from 16 people to more than 30, with most personnel being federal technicians. The AASF #2 is now composed of the Chinooks of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment and the two main support facilities, the Delta Company 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment and Detachment 2, Company B of the 351st Aviation Support Battalion.

“They're energetic, they're enthusiastic,” said Tyler, about his personnel. “And when you look at the capability of the aircraft and the different mission sets that they have, I think that's what draws them to wanting to work on this particular airframe.”

Tyler believes the AASF #2 has a lot to be proud of. After twenty years, flying 14,700 flight hours, carrying 25 million pounds of cargo, and transporting more than 105,000 passengers, the unit has promoted a culture of safety and excellence.

“We carry on a legacy for safety, for conscientiousness, for executing the mission. We've deployed four times now, and we didn't lose a single soldier. We didn't bang up an aircraft, we didn't cause any damage. We continue to strive for excellence in that regard, that the people are the most important. Soldiers that we leave with, we come home with.”

With twenty years come and gone, the AASF #2 looks forward to flying the Chinook for many more years.

“The great thing about the aircraft that we support is that the CH-47 is programmed to go out until 2060," said Tyler. "For the next 40 years, I would say we should absolutely be supporting that aircraft.”

Not only does the AASF #2 pride itself in the past two decades of service to its country, but also, in the fact that it is the first Michigan Army aviation unit to deploy in combat.

“We were the first aviation unit to deploy to a combat zone from the state of Michigan. That's huge. Nobody else can say that but us,” said Tyler.