In August of 2000 Dickinson Cattle Co. in Belmont County was approached by director (CW4) Harold F. Nicley of the West Virginia Army National Guard Company C, 2nd Battalion 104th Aviation to provide trespassing for men, equipment and aircraft for reconnaissance to the 28th Infantry Div. Mechanized. The unit was made up of 36 aviators with 17 aircraft, 11 UH-1 Huey Utility, six OH-58 Scout Reconnaissance helicopters and numerous UH-60 Black Hawks.
CW4 Nicley had been searching for a large land area where West Virginia National Guard aircraft could land and take off without disturbing local residents. Other large land owners were reluctant due to the liability of a crash/fire event and the possibility of stampeding cattle.
“We didn’t know how the Texas Longhorn Cattle would respond to the low flying and loud Black Hawks, so we had to test them,” said Joel Dickinson, the ranch owner.
Nicley and Aviator Lt. Matt Hasslock soon arrived to test the reception of the Texas Longhorn cow herds. Helicopters were carefully landed in different cow herds. While they landed, Dickinsons spread cattle treats around the aircraft. Test landings and take offs were practiced. Within minutes the cows lost interest and went back to eating grass as if nothing had happened, undisturbed by the loud helicopter blade noise.
Formal military agreements were signed by Dickinson Cattle Co for 15 years and now a new agreement extension up to 2020 has been signed. This is voluntary with no cost to the military.
“We are honored to have a unique land area good for professional training of the National Guard,” Dickinson said. Hundreds of Guardsmen have been trained and served in active duty from these exercises.
National Guard Aviators must train to the same standards as active duty counterparts and conduct 96 flight hours of training annually per crew. This involves low level flight, Pinnacle and Ridge-line operations. The reclaimed land at Dickinsons is perfect for this training. Flights will be conducted during both day and night and include the use of night vision goggles, which is the most demanding mode of flight training. All operations originate at the Ohio County Airport.