First Lithuanian pilots graduate from US Army UH-60M course

First Lithuanian pilots graduate from US Army UH-60M course

17-Apr-2023 Source: US Navy

Lithuania air force Capt. Matas Leckas and Capt. Valius Urbonas became the first Lithuanian pilots to graduate from the UH-60M Aviator Qualification Course at the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence during a ceremony at Fort Novosel, Alabama, then known as Fort Rucker, April 4, 2023.

The Pennsylvania National Guard has been partners with Lithuania since 1993 as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program. Regular engagements and exchange training such as this are crucial to that partnership.

“The Pennsylvania National Guard will see the fruits of its labor every time a Lithuanian counterpart graduates from an aviation training school,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Nathaniel Curtis, a State Partnership Program coordinator with the Pennsylvania National Guard. “The ongoing rotary wing engagements with Pennsylvania ensure Lithuania is prepared for their incoming UH-60M Black Hawks, which may lead to future pilot and maintenance training exchanges for both partners.”

The Lithuania air force will soon add UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to their fleet. The UH-60M is a newer and more advanced model of the UH-60. Sikorsky Aircraft began producing M models in 2006 to fulfill the U.S. Army’s goal of replacing their aging UH-60 fleet.

According to U.S. Army Maj. Michael Bertsch, commander of the Army Aviation Support Facility here, Pennsylvania Army National Guard aviators are helping Lithuania prepare in an effort to reduce the friction they could potentially face when they field the new airframe.

“In Spring of 2022, a Pennsylvania Army National Guard aviation enterprise team, comprised of UH-60M subject matter experts, visited Lithuania to tour the aviation maintenance facilities and offer suggestions on how to prepare for fielding UH-60M Black Hawks and assist in developing training strategies,” said Bertsch. “This trip laid the foundation for future visits and events with our partner nation.”

In addition to attending Leckas and Urbonas’s graduation on April 4 to show their support, Pennsylvania Army aviation leaders have regularly traveled between the two countries and around the U.S. to advance the partnership.

Since 2022, Soldiers with Pennsylvania’s Army aviation community attended UH-60M program management reviews in Lithuania and Huntsville, Alabama, with another planned in Lithuania later in 2023. They also hosted the Lithuanian air force commander at Fort Indiantown Gap to provide a tour and capabilities briefing. These efforts aim to continue to strengthen the partnership and share experiences and best practices.

Curtis added that although Lithuania’s formal helicopter training is scheduled at Fort Novosel, additional on-the-job training with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard may supplement Lithuania’s training objectives and help keep their aviators’ certifications up to date. All leading to unique aviation training opportunities for both Pennsylvania and Lithuania.

“Lithuania’s steadfast and motivated approach to aviation matches their Pennsylvania counterparts,” said Curtis. “The Lithuanian air force is ready and prepared for their incoming aircraft. Rather than wait, the Lithuanian air force is proactively sending their aviators and maintainers routinely to Army aviation schools in the United States to ensure they are ready to begin operations immediately when their UH-60M Black Hawks arrive.”

The Lithuanian air force features a robust aviation maintenance program and shares many commonalities with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Leaders in the Army aviation enterprise here are looking forward to future opportunities and expanding training opportunities.

“I believe offering these types of opportunities to our Lithuanian partners is mutually benefitting and invaluable to both nations,” said Bertsch. “The Pennsylvania Army National Guard stands ready to provide aircraft maintenance and training recommendations, lessons learned, best practices, training opportunities and support as the Lithuanian air force fields the UH-60M. We will continue to strengthen the relationships and offer to provide guidance and training in the aviation maintenance realm.”

The Pennsylvania Army National Guard aviation community is made up of Soldiers with the Eastern Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, Army Aviation Support Facility #1 at Fort Indiantown Gap and Army Aviation Support Facility #2 at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.

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