Aviation exercise forges partnerships in Europe
March 18, 2014
Hohenfels, GERMANY-- U.S. Army Europe is currently undergoing one of the largest aviation training exercises here in recent history.
Taking place in the skies and on the ground between the Joint Multinational Training Command's (JMTC) Grafenwoehr Training Area (GTA) and its Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) at the Hohenfels Training Area, to as far as Bad Reichenhall, near the German-Austrian border, the focus is to prepare the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Our goal is to conduct a well-planned and executed mission rehearsal exercise for the 12th CAB that accurately replicates the conditions they may encounter during their deployment," explained Lt. Col. John H. Knightstep, Senior Trainer for the Falcon Observer/Coach-Trainer Team based at JMRC.
Over forty aviation aircraft consisting of a variety of models are taking part in the event in order to train pilots and crews on offensive, defensive and medical evacuation missions.
"We train individual skills all the way up to collective crew drills," said Knightstep, who has piloted various army aircraft over his extensive career as an aviator.
But it's not just the U.S. Army that is taking part in the training.
Unique to this rotation is the German-American partnership that consists of Bundeswehr Soldiers replicating the opposition force (OPFOR) on the ground confronting the 12th CAB Soldiers, while simultaneously honing their own tactical skills.
Hailing from the Hochstaufen Barracks in Bad Reichenhall, elements from the German Army's 23rd Mountaineer Brigade, an elite Mountain Infantry unit, are working in tandem with a small detachment of OPFOR Soldiers from JMRC's own 1-4 Infantry Regiment as the 12th CAB conducts complex Air-to-Ground operations within the challenging mountainous terrain that surrounds the scenic alpine base.
Expansive training events such as this require extensive planning and efforts have been made to ensure that the local German populace is informed and educated on what will be taking place in and around the training areas.
"Through our community connector program there is transparency between the U.S. Army and the local Mayors," said Knightstep, who feels that the German-American partnership between Soldiers and their German neighbors is not only a benefit to the training, but an essential part of living in Bavaria.
Open forum discussions with local community officials and senior Army leaders from JMRC has resulted in a training plan that meets realistic expectations for training while respecting requests for specific no-flight times and quiet hours for the populace.
At the conclusion of the training event, the 12th CAB will be heading for Afghanistan better prepared for the challenges that await them.
"We want them to be as prepared as possible and that's what we'll deliver," said Knightstep.
The Joint Multination Readiness Center is the U.S. Army's only overseas Combat Training Center. It is part of the Joint Multinational Training Command and trains more than 60,000 soldiers (U.S. and allied) annually.