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Guest post and photos by Army Spc. Jennifer Spradlin, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
MULTI NATIONAL BASE TARIN KOT, Afghanistan – For many Soldiers, the iconic sound of helicopters in flight, a kind of background soundtrack to their lives, is synonymous with being deployed.
During the last nine months at Multi National Base Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, Spc. Jessica Newton has remained a fixture on the flight line as an armament specialist with D Company, Task Force No Mercy. The daily opportunity to work with helicopters has only increased her respect and interest in the aircraft.
“I enjoy mechanics and the way things work. The fact that we can make something out of nothing,” said Newton, an Orange Park, Fla., native. “When I joined the Army, I knew I wanted to work with rotary wing aircraft. I wanted to be a part of aviation.”
The TF No Mercy flight line is a lesson in controlled chaos, involving a continuous cycle of Soldiers, helicopters, missions and repairs. Even when parked and silent, the aerodynamic design of the AH-64D Apache Longbow gives off the impression of motion. The Apache helicopter is the Army’s premier attack helicopter, equipped with Hellfire missiles, 2.75 inch rockets and a 30-mm machine gun. It is the ultimate ally to ground forces.
As an armament technician, Newton is responsible for a variety of maintenance related tasks on the Apache helicopter to include: loading and unloading aircraft ammunitions, aircraft communications, aircraft sighting systems, and aircraft electrical wiring.
In her late twenties, Newton said she tried working civilian jobs prior to joining the Army, but found them monotonous and unfulfilling. Newton knew she wanted to be a part of a team.
“With the Army, you have a drive that you are doing something for the people around you,” said Newton. “I know I am in Afghanistan, but being with my shop and my unit is like a home away from home. When you are down, they’ll drive you. They won’t let you fall back, and that’s awesome.”
Newton’s quiet, Southern drawl belies the fact that she is a determined, hard-worker, but the unit’s leadership notices her constant desire to learn and advance in her career field.
“I’ve worked with Newton for about a year now. She’s one of the quickest learners that we’ve had,” said Staff Sgt. Dean Hess, senior armament maintenance supervisor, D Co., TF No Mercy.
Hess previously deployed to Iraq and is on his second deployment to Afghanistan. He said each Soldier has different qualities and it is the role of a non-commissioned officer to bring out the best in them.
“One of the things I am looking for in a good Soldier is one who pays attention to their job and knows their job. With our job, every repair that we do on an aircraft, the pilots’ lives are at stake. Newton is very dependable,” said Hess, a Clearwater, Fla., native .
Newton said her ultimate goal was to apply for acceptance into the Warrant Officer Course in order to become a helicopter pilot, but until then, she is more than happy working with her hands and making sure everything is done right to make the mission happen.
“If we aren’t doing our job, [pilots] can’t do their job, and if they can’t do their job, they aren’t helping the Soldiers on the ground. That’s why it’s important that we are always striving to get better and learn more,” said Newton.