In the last few months, the U.S. Army has significantly expanded its activities in the Black Sea Region.
On 19 November, Members of 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Field Artillery Brigade (41st FAB) deployed two M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) with 2 launcher crews, comprised of six personnel, from Ramstein Air Base, Germany to conduct Exercise Rapid Falcon in Romania.
According to the 41st Field Artillery Brigade, this was the unit’s second live fire event since reactivation just 90 days ago and was the first time U.S. Forces fired HIMARS from land into the Black Sea in cooperation with Romanian allies.
“Today we performed a HIRAIN, which is a HIMARS Rapid Infiltration,” Capt. Justin Bland, Alpha Battery Commander, 1-77 FAR, said in a recent Army news release. “This allows us to load up into a C-17, C-130, or a C-5 and go anywhere in the world and provide these timely fires.”
According to the service, the exercise also involved the Romania-based element of 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, and Romanian Land Forces from the 8th LAROM Brigade and the 9th Infantry Brigade.
On top of that, the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion (BEB), 173rd Airborne, participated in ‘Operation Full Tang Soaring’ at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, Nov. 11-19.
“Our key task for ‘Operation Full Tang Soaring’ was to come out here to bring together the task forces with multiple capabilities from across the combat aviation brigade; both attack, heavy lift, assault and MEDEVAC aircraft to aggregate forces in one location and we formed a task force as we’re training alongside the ground force, and we’ve accomplished that over the last ten days,” said Lt. Col. Jesse Blanton, 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment commander.
The weeklong training consisted of training for air assaults, attack and security missions, flight operations, and movement of Soldiers. The exercises also focused on sling load training, downed aircraft recovery team training (DART), forward arming refueling point training (FARP), aerial medical evacuation training (MEDEVAC) and live fire exercises. The culmination of which led up to an overall large-scale combined arms live fire exercise (CALFEX).
“’Operation Full Tang Soaring’ is our battalion-level field training at NSTA in Bulgaria, which is an awesome training resource, and this was our opportunity to have a battalion training density where all of our companies are coming out here to train the fundamentals,” said Lt. Col. Sean Shields, 54th Battalion commander. “Working with the 5-101st aviators, we’ve had the benefit of having those lift assets and attack aviation at our disposal for this training.”
101st CAB conducted aviation operations in support of 54th BEB land forces to increase interoperability with partner forces and execute assigned plans. The mission increased readiness and lethality through collective training to maintain a high level of combat readiness throughout the two battalions to allow a quick transition to other designated contingency operations.
“The Dagger Battalion has been an exceptional partner for training out here,” said Blanton. “Our mission as aviation is to support the ground forces. This engineer battalion showed up as true professionals… they’re good at their job and working together, we’ve improved our readiness as well as the ground forces’ readiness.”
The rotational combat aviation brigade from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, provided aerial support to all participating with capabilities including logistics, air assault, live fire and MEDEVAC support throughout the training exercise.
“I’m proud of our Soldiers, both from the 54th BEB and Task Force Eagle Assault,” said Command Sgt. Maj. George Martinez, 5-101st Battalion command sergeant major. “Our presence here in Europe is real, we must prepare our Soldiers for combat.”
Martinez said that this training exercise enhances readiness on multiple levels.
“It’s been a tremendous blessing to have young paratroopers understand air-ground integration, the capabilities of the aircraft, how we use them in air assaults, MEDEVAC training, and sling load training,” said Shields. “It’s been a great opportunity to be able to have these assets at our disposal, we really appreciate the partnership we’ve had with 5-101st assault battalion.”
The training conducted between the two battalions is very unique as engineer battalions don’t often get an opportunity of this magnitude to train with an aviation battalion, integrating the two as one large scale air-ground force.
“’Operation Full Tang Soaring’ is an annual training event conducted by the 54th BEB, it’s the foundation of our Battalion’s training plan, just as a full tang is the heart of any good fixed blade knife,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Tony Powers, 54th BEB Battalion command sergeant major. “This year is unique due to air-ground integration. The partnered training conducted between the 5-101st AHB and the 54th BEB has been an amazing experience for our paratroopers. In my 21 years, I have never seen some of the training we’ve been able to conduct this year due to our partnership.”
Atlantic Resolve protects national interests throughout Eastern European allies and partner countries by posturing lethal and ready formations, conducting realistic theater-specific training and exercises, developing interoperability with host nation capabilities and enhancing partnerships.
“We understand how important it is to train here in the Black Sea region and the significance of the strategic and regional importance of being here along with our NATO allies,” said Shields. “It’s significant in terms of our national presence and deterrence of our adversaries here in this region.”