Former Army attack helicopter pilot recalls service overseas

Submitted photo Travis Bennett, a former attack helicopter pilot, stands proudly in front of an AH-64 D Apache Longbow attack helicopter.

Editor’s note: This article is part of The Inter-Mountain’s Unsung Heroes series, which features veterans in our area and shares first-hand accounts of their military service. The series is published each Monday through Veterans Day. To suggest an Unsung Hero, call 304-636-2121, ext. 120.

ELKINS — A local retired soldier said there was never a doubt in his mind that he would serve in the United States military.

Travis Bennett, originally from Elkins, served as a member of the United States Army from 1996 until 2016 in various places around the world, including Iraq.

“I knew I was going to be a soldier from the time I was a child — there was never any doubt in my mind about what I was going to do,” Bennett said.

During his years of service, Bennett worked in a number of different capacities, including field artillery, special forces and aviation.

For eight years, Bennett served as an attack helicopter pilot, something he said he developed the desire to do during his service.

“I flew the AH-64 D Apache Longbow attack helicopter,” Bennett said. “It’s the Army’s primary attack helicopter — one of the most technologically advanced aircraft in the world.”

After serving as a soldier on the ground, Bennett said he realized he wanted to give other service men and women on the ground air support.

“What made me want to fly the most, and really want to fly attack aircraft, was being a ground solder in combat and having them support us and seeing what they were capable of.

“I watched those guys and remember thinking they were awesome and had the best job in the world,” he said.

Bennett said the bond that is created between members of the military sometimes leads you to do things you could never imagine.

“The closeness and the brotherhood between soldiers, especially when you’re in combat — you can go through day-to-day duties, seeing and doing things that you never could imagine, but you do it in order to protect your brother,” Bennett said.

From 2012 until 2014, he served as company commander of C 50 1-104th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion. His highest rank earned in the Army was chief warrant officer 2.

Medals earned by Bennett include but are not limited to Army Aviator Wings, Combat Action Badge Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (4), Army Achievement Medal (2), Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” and Hourglass devices, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, West Virginia Commendation Medal (2), West Virginia Emergency Service Medal, West Virginia State Service Medal, WV Minuteman Ribbon, Washington D.C. Service Ribbon and Order of Saint Barbara.

Aside from serving in the Army, Bennett worked for the Division of Corrections for 15 years as a K-9 handler.

In 2015 he joined the Elkins Police Department, where he remains employed today. Bennett said the military gave him the gumption to lead people, which is sometimes an important part of his duties as an officer with EPD.

“Probably the thing that carries over the most is the ability to lead — the Army taught me how to lead soldiers and lead people,” Bennett said.

“Being an officer in the Army, especially being a company commander, involved a lot of planning for detailed operations and detailed missions. Being the team leader for the (tactical) response unit here, anytime we do an operation — when I have the time — I do very detailed planning.”

With his military career and his career with EPD, making plans and having contingencies are very important, especially in highly stressful situations, he said.