An aviation task force of Soldiers from 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, the 1st Armored Division CAB, Belgium and the Czech Republic participated in Exercise Allied Spirit V at the 7th Army Training Command’s Training Area, here, Sept. 26 to Oct. 15.
Allied Spirit V is a force on force exercise involving 1,065 participants from the NATO countries of Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and the United Kingdom. The goal of the exercise is to prepare forces in Europe to operate together by exercising tactical interoperability and testing secure communications within NATO Allies and partners.
The 3rd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade, “Task Force Apocalypse,” provided the mission command of all aviation forces for the exercise. TF Apocalypse is the current Regionally Allocated Aviation force deployed to Europe in support of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade.
The aviation task force was comprised of two A-109’s from the Belgian Air Force, two MI-171’s from the Czech Air Force, six AH-64 Apache helicopters from 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 12th CAB. The 3rd Bn., 501st Avn. Regt., 1AD CAB, provided three HH-60 and six UH-60 Black Hawk’s.
Task Force Apocalypse provided crucial air-assault, lift and MEDEVAC support throughout the exercise with the help of their UH and HH Black Hawks. Their support company also secured the area and conducted re-fueling, maintenance and downed aircraft recovery team (DART) operations.
The AH-64 Apache helicopters from 1st Bn., 3rd Avn. Regt., 12th CAB, conducted reconnaissance missions, hasty and deliberate attacks, and provided close air support for the ground forces.
The available firepower on an AH-64 Apache allows a company size formation to mass anti-armor and anti-personnel effects on the battlefield in an expeditious manner.
The two AgustaWestland A-109 Hirundo’s helicopters belong to the First Wing, 17th Squadron, of the Belgian Air Force, from Beauvechain Air Base.
“Our goal in coming to Allied Spirit was to integrate with allied partners here,” said Maj. Nicolas Coucke, the commanding officer of the 17th squadron. Coucke also stressed the importance of using an exercise like this to ensure that their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP’s) are in line with our NATO partners.
This was the first time flying in Hohenfels for the Belgian A-109 helicopter pilots.
The 221st Squadron and 222nd Squadron from the 22nd Helicopter Air Base “Biskajska,” represented the Czech Air Force during Allied Spirit. Their support came in the form of two MI-171’s.
Captain Ladislav Zajicek, the commander for the Czech contingency, spoke extensively about the progress his Soldiers made during the exercise. “They will be better prepared in the future when we work with a NATO force,” said Zajicek.
The Czech aviators also spoke of how the training environment helped challenge and build their aviation planning products.
The highlight of the exercise was the mission the MI-171’s flew for the opposing force said Zajicek. It allowed them complete control of the operation from planning to execution and they flew opposed to the AH-64’s which was another first for the pilots.