The UH-60 Black Hawk entered the U.S. Army in 1979 as a tactical transport helicopter, and has since moved millions of troops. The UH-60 gained prominence in the Gulf War (in the Army’s largest air assault) and was immortalized in the battle for Mogadishu. Hundreds of missions depended on Sikorsky’s four-blade, twin-engine aircraft during the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. The people who keep Black Hawks safe and ready to fly are not so well-known, but are revered by those they serve.
As a boy from Ontario, N.Y., Sgt. 1st Class Scott P. Campbell didn’t dream of working in an aircraft hangar or a machine shop on a base. He has since embraced becoming a Black Hawk helicopter mechanic, responsible to inspect, service, and repair UH-60 helicopters, a job vital to U.S. Army response. It all started when Campbell joined the National Guard during college and ended up “liking the military.” He switched to active duty in 1999.
Campbell’s first military operational specialty was in Germany, in the motor pool. “I worked on air conditioners, heaters and everything else. After that, I re-classed to become a 15 Tango (Black Hawk mechanic) and in 2002, went to Fort Drum” in New York. Assigned to 2nd Brigade, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, he entered a three-month “maintainer” course and also attended further professional development and leadership courses.
As a Black Hawk mechanic, Campbell said, “Crew members must have knowledge of all aspects of the aircraft. Some of the major systems of a Black Hawk include rotor systems, power plant (engines), drive train (transmission and gear boxes), hydraulics, pneumatics, avionics packages and special mission equipment like the hoist and medical interior on the Medevac aircraft.”
Not all of Campbell’s work is on the ground. He started flying in 2003, during the first of five deployments with 10th Mountain Division, serving as a flight crew member. “We flew almost 7,000 hours in a year period. We were all young and going into a new world of unknowns. The deployment set the stage for my maintenance knowledge and insight of aviation operations.”
“The closeness of the members of the unit to function as one,” was a memorable take on Campbell’s first time in combat.
His second deployment was to Afghanistan in 2006, where he performed full-spectrum aviation operations and worked closely with Special Forces to conduct raids and assaults in and around the notorious Helmand Province. “There were a few missions that got the adrenaline going.”
Deployment three saw a return to Iraq in 2008 — serving as platoon sergeant for the first time. “I learned how to effectively manage both helicopters and soldiers.”
In Afghanistan 2010 (deployment four), he managed maintenance work flow for the Black Hawk and two more helicopters — the Apache and Chinook, totaling 42 helicopters at the peak of deployment. “It was a great honor,” to know he had contributed to his battalion receiving the “Army Aviation Association Maintenance Award.”
As for his fifth and current call to Liberia, “I was standing on people’s desks trying to make sure I was going to go,” said Campbell. “We’ve been in combat for so long that I wanted to do something different, and wanted to feel like we’re helping these people … and see the dividends.”
“Being flexible” is the most intense challenge for Campbell this time, “The mission is very unique in how it was organized, how it developed and how it came up … Being adaptable to the changes is crucial and it can also be frustrating, but you have to understand the bigger picture on things.”
Campbell is Medevac platoon sergeant, a non-commissioned officer in charge of his first Medevac unit. “For a Sergeant First Class to be in the Medevac is a relatively new thing.”
He oversees the maintenance on four Medevac helicopters and makes sure his soldiers have what they need to perform their mission efficiently. Conducting training and evaluations is also on his list, with other duties.
“We’ve been flying some USAID personnel (including) Centers for Disease Control engineers out to the Ebola treatment centers and other locations.” Labs have been set up and they’ve flown technicians out, along with taking food and water to soldiers out in remote sites. “We’re basically expediting the transportation of people around the country.
“We’ve also done a few troop Medevacs. Somebody got fuel in their eye,” said Campbell, and another “was a possible appendicitis.” According to Campbell, the Army’s mission statement before troops left said that “we’re not going to be transporting Ebola virus disease patients.”
Since arriving in November 2014, Campbell described flying around in a Third World country — seeing how some people live. “We land in some places, shut down and they (the Liberians) will gather around. Everybody, despite their conditions, is happy. They’re happy that we are here.”
Campbell is logging cool stories to tell his 9-year-old son, Aidan, while working in assault, Medevac and VIPS flight companies, having escorted U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel around. In down time, he sometimes runs marathons and has recently raised $2,000 for Men’s Health Awareness and is working on a college degree.
Home based at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he manages maintenance for 15 helicopters, he’ll pass on his gains to junior soldiers. He hopes “that everyone knows not just the ‘what to do,’ but the ‘why we do it,’ whether it be in the air flying, or on the ground performing maintenance.”
He’s realized that after 16 years of service, “I’m good at fixing an aircraft and taking care of people.”
Sgt. 1st Class Scott Campbell has logged roughly 1,400 flight hours in the nine years he’s been flying. He’s won various Army awards, including two Bronze Stars. Mitigating mechanical mishap is crucial for a UH-60 Black Hawk crew trying to move troops, stay safe from enemy combatants, and complete successful missions.
“Pilots like to fly with me, because I can quickly identify and resolve any issue with the aircraft,” said Campbell. “I have yet to drop a mission due to maintenance and plan on keeping that record going.”