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Pilot keeps tabs on the enemy
by Edgar Morrison, PAO Staff

  The Combat Aviation Brigade puts a lethal touch on 3rd Armored Division's ability to track and dismantle enemy forces.

First Lieutenant Mark Warnicke can testify to that after scouting Iraqi positions during the ground phase of the Persian Gulf War.

Warnicke flew missions aboard an OH-58 Aeroscout helicopter, serving as a key link for Alpha Co., 2nd Bn., 227 Aviation of 4th Combat Aviation Brigade. As a pilot in scout's shoes, Warnicke spots targets for the heavy forces to destroy.

While in the air, Warnicke got a bird's eye view of the battle with all of the elements of war accounted for: prisoners, an offensive march and the destruction that goes along with the event, not to mention the feelings of fright.

His initial involvement in the ground war remains as more than just a remote memory. It started the morning of Feb. 25.

"While doing an aerial screen line, we found some mortar positions that had been supposedly overrun, and 4/7 Cav. had picked up about 500 prisoners," Warnicke said. (Helicopters created the screen line by keeping a keen aerial eye out for enemy troops and equipment in the area.) "And as we were doing our screen line, we had about 10 more pop up about 200 meters from us.

"It scared us pretty bad, but we herded them with the help of some guys from the 1st Infantry Division."

Warnicke then proceeded to hover above the surrendering, and beleaguered Iraqi soldiers, directing them to a spot wherer they could be processed and detained, essentially a place where they could rest. The crew didn't have to worry about any surprises from the Iraqis, for the only item in the hands of any one of them was a white flag used to surrender. For security's sake, the observer/gunner in the helicopter kept an M-16 pointed at the group as it trudged along. Once War-nicke led the Iraqis about 2,000 meters, the enemy prisoners of war received directions on how to get to the detainment area. And off they went.

Later that day, Warnicke once again headed out in his helicopter. His team, which included two AH-64 Apache helicopters and two OH-58s, was going back out for screen line duties. As they flew out to relieve the team on duty, Warnicke's team received antiaircraft fire.

Warnicke said confusion was king at that point. "We had no idea where the enemy was. And the next thing we saw were flashes and rounds about 30 meters away. That's when we were first engaged."

The choppers scattered. "We went to the four winds; we changed our altitude and air speed and direction of flight so the enemy couldn't train on our position. We did some pretty wild flying and maneuvering."

Apaches, which were from the aviation team that was supposed to exit their position, hung around long enough to empty some rockets on what Warnicke said were, most likely, Iraqi tanks. In fact, the Apaches fired while the other helicopters assembled. "Everybody rallied about 5 or 6 kilometers to the rear, but we waited until the Apaches fired," Warnicke said.

Up to this point, Warnicke was immersed in a key element of his West Point education: war. He was busy applying his knowledge from the academy and all of his other military training, like the flight, air assault and airborne schools. Everything was in focus.

In one day, he herded Iraqi prisoners and evaded enemy fire. His next step was to witness a sweep.

"It was about 10 on the morning of the 27th," Warnicke said. "Really, I couldn't tell you a date for sure. It all becomes a blur.

"We'd had a battle the previous night as we rolled past Objective Col-lins and turned to the east. At one point, we had five Apaches on line and we were providing flank and rear security. We also had a Delta model OH-58 acquiring targets up on the line."

From there, everything was just a matter of carrying out fire missions. "It turned into a turkey shoot, taking out tanks and trucks. The Apaches destroyed everything in their path."

Warnicke did put his finger on one soft spot in the battle. "The only point that concerned anyone 'iyas that there were tanks out there; but with the engagement range of the Apaches, the tanks couldn't even shopt at us."

He also pointed out the Apache's value in a low-visibility battle. "It was
really hazy. But with the Apache's sighting and imaging system, they could see and destroy anything that was out there."

"It was a perfect day for them."

The move had every mark of a rout, with all forces moving harmoniously through the sands and skies of Iraq and Kuwait. "We had a friendly armored column on our right, moving to the east, and another on our left, while we were mopping up everything in the middle."

Warnicke was mildly surprised by the quickness of the ground war. "I knew it was planned, but I didn't expect it to happen quite as fast.

"To move a whole division 300 kilometers, fighting all the way, maneuver units can do it. It's the support elements that I had a few doubts about. I was truly amazed that it happened;
they had the gas and bullets everywhere we needed them."

How about Warnicke, though? He came through, too. He pointed out the enemy from the air. He took in all the aspects of war. What does this war stir in him after getting a bird's eye view?

The 25-year-old pilot focuses not on glory, but on a peaceful ending. Though he curses war, he knows its value.

Knowing the toll war takes both from the air and on the ground, Warnicke said with certainty, "Nobody loves peace more than the soldier."

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