Apache helicopter pilot
Chief warrant officer 2 Johnny Key, the son of John and Penney Key of Madras, was deployed May 10, for a 10-month mission in Afghanistan.
The 35-year-old Key is on year two of a three-year tour, stationed in Germany. However, the Army has deploy him from there on the special mission.
In Afghanistan, Key pilots an Apache attack helicopter (AH-64D) out of Forward Operating Base Shank. "He can't say what he's doing, but he's been flying a lot of missions," his mother said.
His parents got to visit Key in Germany last spring, before he was deployed. "We got to visit the base and sit in the helicopter. There's only room for two pilots, and one is the gunner. They can view a target from five miles out," she said.
Key's wife Heather and 3-year-old son Garrett are currently living in Kentucky, and they are expecting a second child in August. In March, when his time in Afghanistan is up, they will join him in Germany for the last year of his tour.
Joining the Army in 2001, Key has served twice before in Afghanistan and once in Iraq with the 101st Airborn Division.
"He said this is a big change in living conditions from before," his mother said. "With the 101st, he was living on the sand. Now, he's in a tent with air-conditioning and has good food. He sleeps in the day and flies at night, has Skype and talks regularly to his family," she added.
Helicopter pilots must put a certain amount of time in combat to be an instructor. "That's his goal, to be an instructor for that type of helicopter," she said.