Sunday, December 11, 2016

Army aviators gain valuable experience in Europe



More than 400 Army aviators from Fort Bliss are gaining valuable real-world experience during their nine-month deployment in Europe.

They will come back back as better soldiers and will be better prepared to work and fight with partner nations in the future, said members of the 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment about their deployment.

“The training we are getting is paying big dividends,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Troy Hubbs, the senior enlisted leader for the 3-501st, an assault helicopter battalion. Hubbs and others spoke via conference call last week from Germany.

“The battalion will be very well-rounded when we return home,” said Hubbs, from Thomasville, Ala.

About 350 soldiers from the Apocalypse Battalion joined up with about 100 soldiers from sister unit, the 2-501st, to create an aviation task force that is supporting Operation Atlantic Resolve.




Operation Atlantic Resolve is a show of commitment by the United States to its NATO and other European partners. It also serves as a way to deter aggression against European countries.

Most of this task force from Fort Bliss has been in Europe since late June.

The 3-501st brought about 30 Black Hawk helicopters with it to Europe, while the 2-501st brought about six specially equipped Black Hawks used for medical evacuations.

Task Force Apocalypse has primarily been stationed in Germany, Latvia and Romania. It’s done training in those three countries and in 10 other European nations in support of 24 named operations, said Lt. Col. Jason Arriaga, commander of the 3-501st and leader of the aviation task force.

In September and October, about 200 soldiers from the task force did a full rotation at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, one of three combat training centers that the Army operates.

During that rotation, the task force was joined by aviation units from the Czech Republic and Belgium, which brought their own helicopters. They all answered to a higher headquarters from Lithuania, the Iron Wolf Brigade.

The Fort Bliss task force also has supported three other rotations at JMRC and will provide support to one more before these soldiers leave next spring.



The key concept behind all this training is called interoperability, the ability of different partner nations to work, communicate and fight together, said Arriaga, from Corpus Christi, Texas.

“There are so many different countries and so many different variables involved when it comes to integrating with a higher headquarters or adjacent units (from different countries),” Arriaga said.

The goal is to work through those issues and make sure that soldiers from different countries can work, communicate and fight together, if called upon, Arriaga said.

Hubbs said that interoperability is crucial because “if something happens and we do go to war, we won’t go alone.”

Training in Europe -- with its variable weather and its different terrain that includes mountains and forests – can also be challenging, Arriaga said.

Apocalypse Battalion did about six months of training before heading to Europe. The battalion went to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in April with Fort Bliss’ 3rd Brigade. The 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team has been deployed in Kuwait since the summer.

The 3-501st also sent some soldiers to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., in January of this year in support of Fort Bliss’ 1st Brigade.

All that training before and during the deployment will make the battalion better when it comes back home, Arriaga said.

Fort Bliss aviators are expected to return home around April.

A group of about 40 soldiers from Charlie Company with the 3-501st, however, is scheduled to return this week. This group deployed earlier than the main group from Fort Bliss.

Sgt. Bradley Obenland is a crew chief with Alpha Company, 3-501st.

This European deployment has created the opportunity to work with the militaries of many other countries, he said.

“It gives you a greater understanding of how other militaries work and shows us areas where they might do things better,” said Obenland, from Fairmount, Ill.

Obenland added that it is important to be able to work with partner nations because "we don't fight alone."

Story and photo gallery:   http://www.elpasotimes.com

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