For the first time, Soldiers from the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI), teamed up with sailors from the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two (HSC-2), to conduct a weeklong overwater exercise that began March 14 at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield.
Sailors from HSC-2, also known as the “Fleet Angels,” spent the week with the brigade, talking about landing tactics and techniques, training on the flight simulators, and conducting flight landings on simulated ship decks as a way to help them develop approaching angles at sea so they can become overwater-qualified.
“Previously, there wasn’t a need for 10th CAB crews to be overwater-qualified, due to the types of missions we were conducting,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jay Latona, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade master gunner and coordinator of the training event. “However, because of this, I could see we lacked the ability to conduct overwater missions due to under-qualified crews.”
It was then that Latona decided to maximize the capabilities of the joint force and coordinated to have overwater trainers travel from Norfolk, Va., to Fort Drum.
The Fleet Angels are typically responsible for training pilots and air crewmen to fly the MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter in preparation of worldwide missions, logistical support, and combat search and rescue missions.
For Soldiers of the 10th CAB, this exercise allowed them to familiarize themselves with the overwater landing procedures using the unit’s AH-64 Apache, UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook, while also understanding how to operate in a joint environment in preparation for any future deployments.
To make the training more effective, a runway at Griffiss International Airport, located in Rome, N.Y., also was used for this exercise. This allowed for all three types of aircrafts to be simultaneously used without interfering with air and ground space or time constraints.
“It’s hard to simulate landing on a boat when you’re landing on the ground,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joseph Santee, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade senior instructor pilot. “But that’ll be the next evolution of the training when we travel to Virginia. It’s also good to continue to build on this relationship with the Navy so we know what the responsibilities are on our end.”
Capt. Andrew C. Berhardt, a pilot from the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two, agreed.
“It’s a great opportunity to combine our services for interoperability and expanding the capabilities of the United States military,” he said. “We’re very excited about getting the opportunity to host the 10th CAB down in Virginia in the near future so they can utilize the training we’ve done here on an actual ship.”
According to Latona, the overall intent of this mission is to keep a small contingency force who is overwater-qualified and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.
“Fighting and winning is our sole priority,” he said. “And with the Navy’s expertise and the great relationship we have established here, I have no doubts we’ll be ready to execute any overwater mission.”
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