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Malmstrom prepares to train crews to operate new helicopters

Grey Wolf helicopter
Posted at 8:32 AM, Mar 11, 2024

GREAT FALLS — With the arrival of new helicopters, Malmstrom aircrew need to be trained on more than 50 years of improved technology. To prepare for the upgrade, a select group of service members have been training since May.

“You hand-pick the best to be able to bring on a new weapons system,” said General Thomas A. Bussiere, Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command.

Last May, a select group of aircrew traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to take part in a 32 day training program on the new MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters, putting together the 550th Helicopter Squadron.

“So the 550th is like a provisional squadron that we stood up here to be able to train our airmen on this new weapons system until our partners in Air Force Reserve Command stand up the permanent training unit Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama,” Commander Bussiere said.

The Air Force media kit says the 550th’s mission is to, “Produce mission-ready MH-139 aircrew for nuclear security for the world’s best air and space force.

“It's not unlike most weapon systems,” Commander Bussiere said, “When you bring on a new capability, you give it to the hands of our airmen and they'll develop the tactical and technical capabilities to be able to employ whatever mission they have. Our airmen are all fired up and ready to go out and field this weapon system in the missile fields.”

Grey Wolf Helicopter at Malmstrom Air Force Base
Grey Wolf Helicopter at Malmstrom Air Force Base

On the 550th’s patch is the motto, “Docendo Discimus”, which is Latin for “By teaching, we learn”, emphasizing the speed the 550th is moving at to not only learn the Grey Wolf helicopters, but understand them enough to provide conversion training for over 300 aircrew.

“We've kind of hit the ground running ever since going to the sim and bringing that training back here, working syllabus and realizing that we are new to the aircraft, but we're going to be instructing people in just a few short months here,” Captain Brock Flieger of the 550th Helicopter Squadron said, “So it's going to be a quick turnaround and there's definitely going to be times where the instructor corps is going to be both learning and teaching at the same time, really refining our skills and figuring out how to best utilize this new weapon system.”

Addressing the aircrew, Helicopter Group Commander Colonel Philip Bryant emphasized the difficulty of learning upgraded systems without the luxury of pausing a mission, offering the aircrew to embrace the challenge rather than let it deter them.

“You have an opportunity that few Air Force aviators and few defenders receive,” Colonel Bryant said, “So make the most of it. We have full faith and confidence that you will do it well.”

The aircrew at Malmstrom Air Force Base are up to the task and prepared to take on the challenge of the modern Grey Wolf helicopter which will serve them for decades to come.

Malmstrom prepares to train crews to operate new helicopters