US, Polish Forces execute battalion air assault during Anakonda 16
By Capt. Jaymon Bell (12th Combat Aviation Brigade)June 13, 2016
1 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –Capt. Dennis Eadus, an 11A Infantryman and Platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, MOD Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, scans the horizon out the ramp of a CH-47 helicopter from Hotel Company, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, 12th CAB, during a battalion air assault mission during exercise Anakonda 16, June 10, near Wedrzyn, Poland. Anakonda 2016 is a Polish national exercise that seeks to train, exercise and integrate Polish national command and force structures into an allied, joint, multinational environment. (Photo Credit: Capt. Jaymon Bell (12th Combat Aviation Brigade))2 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –Helicopters from the Polish 1st Army Aviation Brigade, 25th Air Cavalry Brigade, and the U.S. 12th Combat Aviation Brigade “Task Force Griffin,” are staged for a battalion size air assault of over 400 Sky Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during exercise Anakonda 16, June 10, at the 21st Tactical Air Base in Swidwin, Poland. Anakonda 2016 is a Polish national exercise that seeks to train, exercise and integrate Polish national command and force structures into an allied, joint, multinational environment. (Photo Credit: Spc. Antonio Ramirez (12th Combat Aviation Brigade))3 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –A CH-47 Chinook helicopter from Hotel Company, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade flown by Capt. Tucker Sulzberger, a 15A Chinook pilot and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Adam Marshall, a 154F Chinook pilot return from a battalion size air assault, June 10, outside Wedrzyn, Poland. The CH-47 Chinook crew of Sgt. Randall Roberge, and Spc. Maxwell Hardy, both 15U Chinook Crew Chief’s from 1st Bn., 214th Avn. Regt., 12th CAB, were responsible for the safety of the Sky Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade during the air assault mission. Anakonda 2016 is a Polish national exercise that seeks to train, exercise and integrate Polish national command and force structures into an allied, joint, multinational environment. (Photo Credit: Capt. Jaymon Bell (12th Combat Aviation Brigade))4 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –Sgt. Michael Hagen, a 15U CH-47 Chinook Crew Chief, from Hotel Company, 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade scans his sector aboard a CH-47 helicopter during a battalion size air assault, June 10, outside Wedrzyn, Poland. Sky Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade during the air assault mission. Anakonda 2016 is a Polish national exercise that seeks to train, exercise and integrate Polish national command and force structures into an allied, joint, multinational environment. (Photo Credit: Capt. Jaymon Bell (12th Combat Aviation Brigade))5 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –Over 33 NATO helicopters from the Polish 1st Army Aviation Brigade, 25th Air Cavalry Brigade, and the U.S. 12th Combat Aviation Brigade “Task Force Griffin,” fly in formation during a battalion size air assault of over 400 Sky Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade during exercise Anakonda 16, June 10, near Wedrzyn, Poland. Anakonda 2016 is a Polish national exercise that seeks to train, exercise and integrate Polish national command and force structures into an allied, joint, multinational environment. (Photo Credit: Capt. Jaymon Bell (12th Combat Aviation Brigade))6 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –Helicopters from the Polish 1st Army Aviation Brigade, 25th Air Cavalry Brigade, and the U.S. 12th Combat Aviation Brigade “Task Force Griffin,” are staged for a battalion size air assault of over 400 Sky Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade during exercise Anakonda 16, June 10, at the 21st Tactical Air Base in Swidwin, Poland. Anakonda 2016 is a Polish national exercise that seeks to train, exercise and integrate Polish national command and force structures into an allied, joint, multinational environment. (Photo Credit: Spc. Antonio Ramirez (12th Combat Aviation Brigade))7 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –Sgt. Alfred Pinedo, Spc. Mylz Wade, Pfc. Cody Farnsworth and Pfc. Kevyn Jones, 11B Infantrymen, from 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade pull security from the prone position after exiting a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade during exercise Anakonda 16, June 11, outside Wedrzyn, Poland. Anakonda 2016 is a Polish national exercise that seeks to train, exercise and integrate Polish national command and force structures into an allied, joint, multinational environment. (Photo Credit: Spc. Antonio Ramirez (12th Combat Aviation Brigade))
SWIDWIN, Poland — Over 35 NATO helicopters from the Polish 1st Army Aviation Brigade, 25th Air Cavalry Brigade and the U.S. 12th Combat Aviation Brigade “Task Force Griffin,” participated in a battalion size air assault of over 400 Sky Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during exercise Anakonda 16, June 10-11, at the 21st Tactical Air Base.
This multi-ship battalion size air assault enabled the Sky Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, Airborne Brigade, to move quickly to their objective and seize the initiative from the opposing force.
Air assault operations, supported by attack aviation, rapidly reposition personnel and equipment to enable the combined arms team to strike over extended distances and terrain to attack the enemy where and when it is most vulnerable, according to FM 3-40.
Task Force Griffin is currently augmented by regionally allocated forces from 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation and 127th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade.
The foundation for the battalion assault began in March of this year at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. As part of a gated training strategy, 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, conducted company level air assaults with the 173rd during their combat training center rotation.
The strategy met the necessary key training events to make the battalion air assault during Anakonda 16 possible.
“We had lift aviation from three Army Brigades and two Polish Brigades, so the planning was a bit tough,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kyle Rossi, a 153D Black Hawk Pilot, from Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment. “And it’s pretty amazing that everything went according to the plan.”
The attack aviation of the task force from the 25th Air Cavalry Brigades and 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 12th CAB, conducted landing zone reconnaissance, assessed the threat present in the landing area and also screened the area south of the objective to search for armored forces.
The AH-64 Apache uses the fire control radar system to detect, identify, prioritize and destroy enemy armored threats. This creates time and maneuver space for the infiltration of the ground force.
“The Polish and American attack aviation forces conducted thorough mission planning which really synchronized our forces,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cody Schoonover, an 152H AH-64 pilot and attack air mission commander, from Charlie company 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment. “This allowed us to divide and conquer the battle space.”
The 173rd Airborne Brigade (Sky Soldiers) is the U.S. Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapid forces to the United States European, Africa and Central Commands areas of responsibilities. Forward-based in Italy and Germany, the Brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build interoperability and strengthen the Alliance.
— The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade trains and conducts aviation support across the full spectrum of unified land operations for United States Army Europe, European Command and our allied and NATO partners.
IRAQ — Imagine not knowing where your next glass of water was coming from.
How would you bathe, cook or wash your clothes? Where would you get a drink when your mouth parched from thirst?
This is one of the struggles faced by Iraqi families displaced by aggression from Daesh, another name for the Islamic State. Clean water is necessary for survival, but it’s not something individuals on the run can produce on their own.
That’s why U.S. Marines and Soldiers at a remote Iraqi base have been working together for the last several months to provide purified water to a camp of displaced Iraqis that lives near the U.S. outpost.
“The Iraqi Army is providing humanitarian assistance for those guys, and we help them out with water and humanitarian assistance,” said Marine Capt. Nathan Stinson, a supply officer with Combat Logistics Regiment 15, who helps coordinate the resupply effort. To accomplish the mission Stinson works with Soldiers at the camp who are logisticians.
“What the Army does – we call them water dogs – they get water from the pump and purify it, and we escort them with our gun truck,” said Stinson.
“It benefits us, because right now we don’t have that capability, and they provide that. They don’t have the capability to provide their own security, and we provide that.”
After the Army loads clean water into a tanker and the Marines have prepared their gun truck, Marines and Soldiers gather in a small concrete room to receive a mission brief. Describing the mission, route and timeline, Stinson stands in front of wall with five “habits of thoughts.” Habit three reads, “No better friend, no worse enemy.” Habit five: “Be professional, be polite, have a plan to kill only the enemy that hides amongst the innocent people we are here to protect.”
Fortunately, only one half of those habits will be necessary today.
The brief ends, and the convoy rolls out and soon arrives the camp.
The first thing you notice about the camp is the color. The orange brown from the sand reflects upward and tints the entire surroundings. The white tents, where the displaced Iraqis live, and the concrete blast walls surrounding the camp have an orange tinge from being coated with sand. Even the sky has an orange shade to it as sand from a recent wind storm floats on the horizon.
As the military vehicles roll into the camp, however, the color doesn’t keep your attention for long. Out of seemingly nowhere, more than a dozen children rush the water truck and turn their attention to its driver, Army Sgt. Ryan Archer, a water treatment specialist with the 24th Composite Supply Company, 17th Sustainment Brigade, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater).
Archer has been to the camp more than a dozen times, and the smiling children recognize him. Today, he’s brought them a soccer ball, which they call a football.
“The kids are very friendly,” said Archer. “We give them whatever we can. Christmas time was big. We gave them basketballs, footballs. Football is big. They love football.”
Archer then turns his attention to downloading the water into a storage tank. The water is used for “a lot,” he shared. “Showers, cooking, cleaning. That’s the only source of water they have in that little camp. Since the weather changed and it’s hot, they’ve been going through it like crazy.”
The kids, who appear to range from two to twelve years old, are mostly boys, as cultural differences dictate that only young girls are allowed to interact with the male Soldiers. The children head towards Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Richardson and Sgt. 1st Class Charles Rooker, civil affairs noncommissioned officer in charge, both with the 17th Sustainment Brigade, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater). With broad smiles, young boys fist bump Rooker and a seven-year-old boy with a bright smile and boundless energy shows Richardson how many push-ups he can do. Both Soldiers hand out candy and treats to the children.
Soon the kids run 50 yards from the Army water truck to the Marine gun truck, which has parked at the entrance to the camp. The Marines are also delivering pallets to the camp, which will be used as fire wood for cooking and heating water.
“The kids love us,” said Marine Sgt. Mitchal Bentley, a motor transport mechanic with 1st Marine Division, Truck Company. “Even the adults, they love to take pictures. As soon as they see us come in, they’re jumping and smiling. They look forward to seeing us. Whether we bring them something or not, they’re happy.”
A couple of the children run out with bags of fresh flatbread, which they eagerly give to the servicemembers.
“It’s a paying of respect,” said Bentley. “I didn’t ask for it. It’s the way of their people. If I give something to them, they have to give something to you, and food is important to them.”
It’s not just supplies that these servicemembers provide.
“I’ll take our (medic) corpsman, and he’ll assess them,” said Stinson. “If they have any injuries, we’ll report it to the Iraqi Army. If we have any ointments or creams, we’ll hook them up.”
On a previous trip, the Navy medic even helped dress the wounds of a woman who had been injured by a Daesh car bomb.
When it’s time to roll out, the Marines and Soldiers hustle back to their vehicles recognizing that, while they can’t undo the hurt and trauma these families have experienced, they have made a difference.
“You really feel for the kids,” said Stinson, who recently became a dad for the first time. “(We) try to give them hope. This is just temporary. We let them know we pray for their families.
“A lot of Americans don’t know what it’s like to have nothing. And these people have nothing.”
Their material possessions are few, but as the Americans leave, Stinson believes they’ve left something else behind – “Hope. This is just temporary.”
CHELMNO, Poland — Soldiers, civilians and media excitedly watch from a nearby hilltop as 34 M3 Amphibious Rigs, both German and British, drive into the Vistula River near Chelmno, Poland, before converting into boats. In less than 40 minutes, the U.S., U.K., German and Polish troops set a new world record by building the longest amphibious vehicle bridge during Exercise Anakonda 2016, June 7-17.
The river quickly resembles a game of battleship as all 34 rigs descend into the water. “The vehicle is basically a big truck that has large aluminum pontoons attached to both sides that make it very buoyant,” explained British Capt. Simon Mayers assigned to the 75th Engineer Regiment. “Once it’s on the water, the pontoons open out and then the vehicles line up side by side together to form a ferry. When we have enough vehicles together, we can put ramps out and connect all the trucks together to make a bridge. “
The mass formation of rigs stretching the length of the river is awe-inspiring but the real thrill comes as U.S. forces convoy across the makeshift bridge, demonstrating the sheer power of the rigs and the combined capability of four nations to dominate both land and water areas of operation, while acting as one powerful entity. Approximately 200 U.S. military vehicles successfully crossed the bridge, while the Polish army provided security.
“Moving a unit as large as the 4th Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment and crossing a river without any assets would be incredibly challenging,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Kyle Griffin, armor officer assigned to 4th Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment. “This specific exercise tests the logistical capacity of the unit and allows us to refine our standards.”
Griffin has practiced several bridge crossings over the past year but none on this scale. “Working with the international forces has been fantastic,” Griffin said. “My platoon has personally worked with the German and Polish armies and they’ve been extremely hospitable and welcoming.”
According to Mayers, the rigs are normally capable of building 100 meters of bridge, which is enough for heavy trucks like Strykers, in as little as 30 minutes.
Exercise Anakonda 2016 is a Polish-led exercise that includes more than 25,000 participants from 24 nations and demonstrates cooperative efforts to increase combined training and security with partner and allied forces in Europe.
TACOMA, Wash. — Soldiers assigned to 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Brigade, in conjunction with the Washington National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy and Coast Guard kicked off Joint Logistics Over the Shore in Tacoma, Washington, June 6.
The exercise is designed to establish port operations on a bare beach in order to supply emergency resources to neighboring communities in the event that the Port of Tacoma is damaged by a natural disaster, such as an earthquake.
JLOTS vessels can be deployed in order to temporarily establish facilities at Jenson Point on Vashon Island, Washington.
“In this particular case, it’s a very extreme set of problems that allows us to plan and to learn in the event of a disaster,” said Rick Wallace, the volunteer president of Vashon Be Prepared and logistics controller for the JLOTS exercise.
The participating Soldiers have spent months preparing for the JLOTS exercise. “Providing disaster relief is such a vital mission,” said Spc. Christopher Barrientos-Bland, 331st Modular Causeway Company, 11th Transportation Battalion, 7th Transportation Brigade, a seaman aboard the floating modular causeway. “If an earthquake hits or a tsunami, we’re going to be the ones who get the call, and we can deliver these supplies in the blink of an eye.”
The floating causeways are flat and light enough to be maneuvered by a small crew to create a makeshift pier in the shallow waters.
“All these different pieces you see, we had to preform Preventative Maintenance Checks and Services on them,” said Spc. Sheri Fernando, a watercraft engineer assigned to 331st MCS. “Along with the boats, we needed to make sure all of them were good to go and make sure the engine and electrical equipment are up to standard.”
One of the benefits of the floating modular causeway is the relatively low manpower necessary to assemble and transport the equipment.
“We can break it down into parts, put it on trains and even on planes if we need to,” said Barrientos-Bland. “We can move it anywhere. Ten of us brought this to Washington. We all loaded it up onto the train and built it in under six days before the other units arrived.”
The training exercise allowed the U.S. Transportation Command, the state of Washington and supporting military units to better prepare for future relief operations.
“If you think about the Cascadia earthquake, it happens every 400-500 years, historically, so the last time was a little over 300 years ago,” said Wallace. “What I saw today was the culmination of years of work, and this is a way for us to learn how to work together. It’s a collaboration between the local community and the military.”
POMOZOTIN, Kosovo — Kosovo security professionals and their NATO allies took center stage during one of the largest multinational interagency exercises in Kosovo.
The Kosovo Security Force, Kosovo Police, European Rule of Law in Kosovo and members of NATO’s Kosovo Force came together during Operation Silver Saber, June 1-3.
The three-day exercise centered on enhancing interoperability between the multinational organizations by defining individual roles and sharing a mutual understanding of capabilities and capacities when responding to: civil disturbances, illegal migrant crossing, search and rescue situations, unexploded ordnance, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.
Each of these scenarios focused on real world concerns currently seen throughout the Balkans and built to depict the ongoing migrant crisis in the European Union, where over 1,255,600 refugees have entered from Turkey. Clashes have broken out between police and the conditions of detention centers questioned. The severity of this crisis set the scene and made this a unique exercise for the otherwise year’s bi-annual event.
Silver Saber tested and validated KFOR’s tactics, techniques and procedures when responding to these incidents during a series of complex and multidimensional scenarios.
To ensure each organization fully understood the mission that lay ahead, day one and two focused on commander and staff decision making process as well as individual training of specified unit tasks such as fire phobia and crowd riot control techniques.
Things went from immobile to kinetic on day three as the KP responded to reports of illegal migrants crossing a simulated border.
Once on scene, the KP and KSF documented and transported the migrants to a camp where medical providers were on hand to provide notional treatment along with food and water.
It was during the documentation process that scenario two was exposed. According to the role-playing migrants, two other refugees separated from the crowd.
The KP quickly notified the KSF Search and Rescue team, who moved in to search the ridgeline. Their cries for help could be heard as they approached a group of jagged rocks. As they advanced towards the injured refugees the routine search and rescue turned dangerous as they discovered an unexploded ordnance.
Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams from the KSF and KFOR responded to the scene, where they cleared the site together.
For those participating and observing the exercise, the exchange during the partnered extraction revealed the unspoken importance of the operation. While KFOR and KSF often train side by side, KFOR serves as third responders in a real-world incident.
This means, while they may never get the call to assist, KFOR must be able to work together and accomplish the mission alongside the KSF, with limited prior interaction.
“The interaction between the organizations in Kosovo and KFOR is very important,” said Capt. Jason Vipperman, Silver Saber liaison officer for Multinational Battle Group-East. “We needed to verify, if something really does happen, we can react and work together to get through the situation.”
The interaction and communication between Vipperman and his Kosovo counterparts was vital to get through every phase of the operation, which did not end with the removal of the UXO.
After the hazard was disposed of, the search and rescue, team continued their hunt for the missing migrants. As they reached the hilltop, the severity of the situation became clearer.
At the bottom of the hill, three injured migrants laid sprawled across the unforgiving terrain. As the team reached the injured role players, they began simulated treatment and evacuation procedures.
With the migrants secured and safely transported to the refugee camp, the intensity and focus of the exercise shifted from Pomozotin, Kosovo to Camp Vrelo.
There the KFOR Tactical Reserve Maneuver Battalion responded to a group of unruly protestors.
Once on scene, the formation of KTM Soldiers met an intense reception as the protestors tried to overpower the KFOR team. Their efforts were unsuccessful and the KTM quickly restored peace to the area and handed control back to the KP.
“The liaison, communication and relief in place of the various responders was a crucial part of the exercise and the impromptu scenarios required enhanced collaboration between all responders particularly with regard to the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP),” said KFOR Commander, Maj. Gen. Guglielmo Luigi Miglietta.
Having achieved mission success at a number of different locations, “Endex” signaled the end to Silver Saber 2016.
Although the exercise ended, Maj. Briton Orndorf, plans chief, said the MNBG-E would continue to build on what they learned from the operation.
Miglietta echoed Orndorf’s sentiment noting that KFOR exercises like Silver Saber allow KFOR to “ensure interoperability with current and potential partners, and for working out possible mission command issues including computer network and communications interoperability.”
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) — More National Guard and Reserve units are partnering with the active component under the Army Forces Command Total Force Partnership Program, and one of the latest is an infantry brigade combat team from California.
All eight Army National Guard division headquarters are now partnered with an active component corps headquarters under the program, which seeks to operationalize the Army Total Force Policy signed by the secretary of the Army in 2012. U.S. Army Forces Command also partnered each of the 28 ARNG brigade combat teams to active BCTs in 2014, a FORSCOM spokesman said.
PARTNERSHIP IN ACTION
A recent example of how this type of partnership works is the California ARNG’s 79th Infantry BCT, partnering with the 1st Armored Division’s 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment (Stryker) out of Fort Bliss, Texas.
From May 15 to June 4, the two units conducted joint training at Camp Roberts and Fort Hunter Liggett, both in California.
This type of partnership is “back to the future,” said Lt. Col. David Murphy, commander, 1st Bn., 143rd Field Artillery Reg., 79th IBCT.
As a lieutenant in 1999, he said he recalls his unit partnering with the 29th Field Artillery Regiment out of Fort Carson, Colorado.
Since that time, however, focus shifted to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the training partnerships melted away. The 79th IBCT, and others like it, trained in isolation.
That isolated training hurt readiness, Murphy said, because when a unit needed to deploy, more time was needed to integrate units at the pre-mobilization sites.
Now that has changed, he said, with this year being the first year in over a decade that his unit has partnered with an active-duty one, and that partnership is expected to continue, he added.
The recent exercise Murphy’s unit participated in with the 4-17th was called an “external combat training center” event, because it was not at an officially designated CTC.
Having said that, the training offered enough real-estate to conduct dynamic, high-fidelity training, including live-fire that comprised two gun raids with all the platoons, an airlift and an opposition force, he said. Also, First Army’s 3rd Bn., 358th Field Artillery, out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, provided observer-controllers “who were very helpful to us.”
Feedback from the platoon leaders indicated that they felt the joint training experience was highly beneficial and it gave them a chance to improve troop-leading procedures and become fully engaged in the training, without the usual administrative requirements and distractors getting in the way, he said. The noncommissioned officers had similar sentiments.
Murphy said he believes that as other units partner in likewise fashion, the Guard and Reserve will continue to maintain their status as a fully capable operational Reserve.
TOTAL FORCE INTEGRATION
Army Forces Command Total Force Partnership Program aims to integrate the Army’s active and reserve components for training exercises, planning and improved interoperability, according to Paul Boyce of FORSCOM.
In March, the Associated Units pilot program — an Army Total Force initiative — was launched and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley remarked: “Much of America’s Army’s capacity is resident in the Reserve components and we must rely more heavily on them to meet the demands of a complex global environment. The Associated Units pilot allows us to leverage the capabilities and capacities of the Active component, Army Reserve and the Army National Guard as one Army.”
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Multinational aviators exercise internal abilities in Kosovo
By Staff Sgt. Thomas DuvalJune 9, 2016
1 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –A multinational multi-ship formation of rotary wing helicopters fly over Kosovo during Operation Icarus, June 8, 2016. The formation included a Croatian Mi-171 helicopter, a Swiss AS-332 Super Puma and U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawks. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Marco Lechuga)2 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –Passengers of a downed UH-60 Black Hawk signal for help during the multi-ship exercise, Operation Icarus, held June 8, 2016, in Kosovo. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval)3 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –After securing a simulated crash site, members of the Multinational Battle Group-East’s reactionary force prepare for evacuation during Operation Icarus, June 8, 2016, in Kosovo. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval)4 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –Flight medics assigned to the 5th Air Ambulance Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment perform first aid on simulated casualties during Operation Icarus June 8, 2016, in Kosovo. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo)5 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –A multinational multi-ship formation of rotary wing helicopters fly over Kosovo during Operation Icarus, June 8, 2016. The formation included a Croatian Mi-171 helicopter, a Swiss AS-332 Super Puma and U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawks. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Marco Lechuga)6 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –A UH-60 Black Hawk serves as a simulated downed aircraft while medevac crews perform first aid on the Turkish passengers during Operation Icarus held June 8, 2016, in Kosovo. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval)7 / 7Show Caption +Hide Caption –A team of Turkish soldiers, serving as a reactionary force for the Multinational Battle Group-East, transfer from a UH-60 Black Hawk to a Swiss AS-332 Super Puma in response to a downed air craft scenario during Operation Icarus in Kosovo, June 8, 2016. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Thomas Duval)
CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo — Since its humble beginning in the 1860s, when balloons were used for aerial reconnaissance, Army aviation has been relied on by Soldiers to accomplish the operational and tactical needs of the United States Army.
From observation to troop movement, aviators are called upon to be reliable professionals who can adapt to a wide variety of missions. Since 1999, Soldiers deployed to Kosovo in support of NATO’s peace support mission understand the importance of aviation all too well.
On June 8, 2016, multinational aviators came together on Camp Bondsteel to test their adaptability by conducting a multinational and multi-ship operation in Kosovo deemed Operation Icarus.
“The purpose of the operation was to build the alliance between the U.S. and the NATO partners in Kosovo while exercising and assessing internal abilities to respond to complex situations and contingencies,” said Capt. William Hathaway, operations officer assigned to the 2nd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment.
The event incorporated crews from the U.S., Swiss and Croatian militaries and allowed the allied aviation flight crews, planners and leaders to test their tactics, techniques and procedures alongside one another.
Additionally, Hathaway said the operation allowed the units to access their decision making process all the way from the crew chiefs to the leaders.
“Decisions made during the exercise are not as important as understanding why those decision were made, and the resolve to refine the process that led to a particular decision,” said Hathaway. “Stressing the capabilities of the individual and of the collective team, in a safe manner, is all that is required to ascertain the deficiencies in those capabilities and of the processes in place.”
Understanding these capabilities is important for any organization, but even more so when dealing with multinational allies with different procedures.
“There is the potential when conducting multi-ship operations that something could go wrong… with airframes and aircrews with different procedures and capabilities, this potential is increased,” said Hathaway.
Hathaway said the potential of these hazards decrease when the allied forces improve familiarity and build trust between the aircrews.
With 31 troop contributing nations supporting the Kosovo Force mission, trusting each other plays a vital role for mission success and could be the difference in life and death.
To stress this point, Hathaway and his team took the training beyond a simple multi-ship formation flying over Kosovo, adding a few potentially catastrophic twists to the scenario.
Approximately 45 minutes into the flight, two UH-60 Black Hawks carrying a Turkish reactionary force broke off from the multinational formation and began a simulated plummet towards the surrounding mountaintops.
Two downed aircrafts and multiple casualties made an already difficult mission even harder.
“Injecting a two-ship downed aircraft scenario into an already, admittedly, complex flight creates the potential for any error to be compounded,” said Hathaway. “No organization can grow and develop without first determining the areas in which improvement is needed.”
By recognizing these errors in an austere training environment, the unit can prevent them from happening in a real-world scenario, he added.
With more than 4,400 KFOR service members relying on the aviation crews for various movements throughout Kosovo, perfecting these skills while eliminating errors directly impacts KFOR’s ability to accomplish its mission.
“By working in cohesion with other NATO partners, KFOR’s overall ability to maintain a safe and secure environment in Kosovo is strengthened,” Hathaway said. “Additionally by stressing the capabilities of medevac helicopter response to mass casualty situations, the medevac unit will be better situated to provide real-world response in the Kosovo area of operations.”
From troop movement to medical evacuation, the aviators of Multinational Battle Group-East and KFOR overcame each obstacle thrown in their direction and proved they were prepared to work together to accomplish any mission.
The MNBG-E and KFOR flight crews plan to conduct similar training in the future as they look to refine internal and multi-echelon processes that improve the units overall readiness and, in turn, provide the historical reliability Army aviation is known for in KFOR’s ability to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement in Kosovo.
FORT HOOD, Texas — Communication has become a driving force for joint military forces to complete missions.
This innovation has been showcased between joint forces of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard while at Fort Hood during the Multi-echelon Integrated Brigade Training exercise. A MiBT is a multicomponent training event that sustains readiness of reserve and active components in accordance with the U.S. Army’s Total Force policy.
Airmen supporting the communication section for the 184th Sustainment Command provide several resources of communication for Soldiers while in field.
Master Sgt. James K. McKinney, cyber operations non-commissioned officer in charge, 225th Air Control Squadron, Mississippi Air National Guard, sets up communication systems for units to maintain contact while on missions during the MiBT.
“Our mission here is to provide communications to the combatant commander through our joint incident site communications capability system (JISCC),” said McKinney.
The JISCC features advanced communications systems that can rapidly deploy anywhere in the U.S. to enable vital interagency communications at the site of a manmade or natural disaster.
On site during the MiBT, the JISSC integrates secure satellite and wireless communications, land mobile radios, high frequency (HF) ALE, voice-over-IP telephones, and video teleconferencing, non-secure internet, and commercial internet for a complete, self-contained solution. This end-to-end system delivers high-bandwidth connectivity even where the infrastructure is broken or damaged.
“In support of the MiBT, we provide radio systems to Soldiers that are in the field with ways to communicate to higher-ups as well as to their families back home. We provide constant communication, where if they need to call out they have a DSN that’s working and wireless Internet while in the field or at the (tactical operations center),” said Master Sgt. McKinney. “We also have a repeater for our radios that provides range down the roads, with different frequencies, but Master Sgt. Aaron Z. McKenzie is more specialized in the frequencies of the radios.”
McKenzie, a radio frequency transmission technician, is also on the supporting communication staff.
“Our job is to provide backup network signal and radio communication systems. I’m a radio handler. The army is using the SINGAR radios so that we can monitor them on the inside while they are out in the field,” he said.
This training will provide all Soldiers with important components of communication while working in the field. It is important that Soldiers know this type of communication is available to them so their minds will be at ease knowing that someone is there that can relay vital information in an effective manor.
“We are here to serve them in whatever capability they need us and whatever we can provide for them,” said McKinney “This is fantastic! It has opened my eyes and gave me a whole new appreciation for the Army Guard and the Soldiers for what they do in the field. Actually watching them out there, do their maneuvers out there, working with a G-staff in the TOC, and learning more about how they operate compared to what the Air Force does; and trying to work that into a joint system is challenging. Each side has good ideas about how the team works collaboratively to make that cohesive team and joint service push through.”
Both McKinney and McKenzie support the MiBT as well as the effectiveness of all the training that has taken place.
“It’s been a lot of fun! This isn’t my first one. This is the third time I’ve done this and it shows a good correlation and relation between the two different branches. The way the military has been moving lately, they’re doing more and more joint efforts so it just makes more sense that more of our chain of regiments would join as well. Seeing an exercise this large and playing a part in it – providing communications, even though its on the back end of the training – it’s a very huge part of it because this is allowing us to stay in good communication between the outside field and the inside portion.”
TORUN, Poland — Exercise Swift Response 16 kicked in to high gear here this week as paratroopers from the British, Italian, Polish and U.S. Army conducted multiple and simultaneous airborne jumps on to the Polish countryside as a demonstration of allied rapid response capabilities.
Exercise Swift Response 2016 (SR16) is one of the premier military crisis response training events for multinational airborne forces in the world and takes place in Poland and Germany, May 27-June 24.
The training is evaluating the readiness of the core ground component of the U.S. Army’s Global Response Force (GRF) (currently the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C.) alongside high-readiness forces from Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as well as additional U.S. Army and Air Force units in Europe. The GRF provides the U.S. with the ability to deploy airborne elements anywhere in the world to respond to crisis situations within 18 hours of notification.
This is the second summer in a row that the Army’s GRF participated in Swift Response. This year the exercise involves two phases.
Phase 1 (May 27-June 9) took place primarily in Poland and featured simultaneous airborne operations: the first led by the 1/82 Airborne — which, after alerting and out-loading a battalion-sized element from Fort Bragg, N.C., conducted a transatlantic airborne Joint Forcible Entry (JFE) operation to seize key terrain alongside Polish and British paratroopers on a drop zone near Torun, Poland. The second jump included elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and Italian paratroopers near Swidwin, Poland.
The paratroopers near Torun then secured a bridge leading in to the city of Torun for the passage of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment the following day as that unit moved through Poland on their way to exercise Saber Strike in the Baltics.
The second phase of the exercise will take place at U.S. Army training areas in southern Germany as the airborne forces conduct a combat training center rotation as part of a 10-nation task force.
Ustka, Poland — A multinational training event was coordinated between the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, the Polish 3rd Surface to Air Missile Brigade, and the British 19th Tank Transporter Squadron in order to validate the ability of these units to interoperate during the recovery of non-mission capable of wrecked vehicles from June 6 to 7.
In a true testament to multinational interoperability service members from the 10th AAMDC, the Polish 3rd SAM Brigade, and the British 19th Tank Transporter Squadron were able to coordinate the recovery of a variety of vehicles originating from a multitude of nationalities through the collaboration of recovery personnel and assets from each of the units involved.
“Once we had the joint recovery plan coordinated, we knew it was time to test them.” explained Chief Warrant Officer 2 Chris Dulaney, the 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment’s maintenance officer, “We had them recovering some really large assets which forced collaboration.”
On the evenings of both the 6th and the 7th the multinational recovery teams received word that they were needed to recover a variety of assets. The team was then required to move out to the recovery site, confirm the location of the downed vehicles, evaluate the vehicles, and then move the vehicles to their appropriate areas for maintenance.
“It’s really great getting to work with both these guys [Americans and Polish],” state Cpl. Leigh Hitchen, a section commander for the 19th Tank Transporter Squadron, “It’s not something you get to do all the time.”
Both iterations were executed flawlessly by the multinational recovery team, an obvious result of the hard work and communication that occurred between these three nations.
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