You, me, and 2P.
Time management and sleep play a big role in aviation. We know that fatigue can contribute to errors in judgment and response time. We also know too many mishaps occur because of pilot error. At some point in a pilot's career, a situation will arise that pushes his crew-rest limit. That situation occurred on my first deployment.
The typical manning for a single plane, light-airborne-multipurpose-system (LAMPS) detachment consists of an officer in charge (OinC), at least one helicopter aircraft commander (HAC), and two helicopter second pilots (H2Ps). This staffing allows for two operational crews in a single helicopter detachment. A HAC is responsible for filling the maintenance officer billet, considered the most involved job, with the remaining pilots taking the operations, training and administration jobs. This structure allows the detachment to flow smoothly, with adequate aircrew rest. My detachment was manned differently, with only one H2P--me.
I consider myself a very capable individual; however, sometimes, too much is too much. The OinC was vigilant when it came to detachment safety. In every case, he put safety above all else. On more than one occasion, he told me to stop working and get to bed. This mindset was a difficult concept for me to grasp.
As a person who is very concerned about my reputation, I bust my hump to complete all assigned tasks. If this meant getting less sleep, then I was OK with that; OPNAV 3710 and my OinC, however, were not. After many long hours, I now know why. All of my jobs were full-time responsibilities. Furthermore, with a shortened deployment, I would need to do in three months what others had twice that time to accomplish. The addition of eating, working out, eating, studying, eating, and flying, did not leave much time for sleep. I sometimes found myself running ragged.
Three months is not a long deployment. As the only 2P, it felt like we were gone much longer. I was spent upon return, physically and mentally. Having a "can do" attitude, I did not bring my condition to the attention of my HACs or OinC, which would have been the prudent thing to do. I tried my best not to let my collateral duties affect my performance, and for the most part, they did not. However, I didn't always bring my "A" game.
Eventually, the other pilots recognized my plight and made it much easier for me to say "no." On more than one occasion, a load was taken off of my shoulders and put on another member of the detachment. As aircrew, the crew-resource-management concept does not stop in the cockpit. On this detachment, it was in full force on the ground, as well. I definitely do not regret being the only 2P on the detachment. It allowed me greater opportunities to earn flight time, learn different jobs, and gain experience as a leader and a pilot.
I will take this experience with me on my HAC cruise and throughout my career. Here's one more valuable lesson: I can't do everything myself. Crew resource management works!
By Ltjg. Kent Gebicke
Ltjg. Gebicke flies with HSL-49.