By Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chivon Cyrus, 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment, 166th Aviation Brigade, Division West Public AffairsMarch 3, 2014
FORT HOOD, Texas -- With American forces in Afghanistan fully engaged in a dynamic drawdown and the recent end of conflict in Iraq, it is easy to forget the current peacekeeping operations American forces continue conducting in Kosovo.
Recently, the 166th Aviation Brigade's 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment was given the mission to train, mobilize and validate an aviation task force for Kosovo. Training included conducting a Personnel Recovery Lane Training Exercise, a Collective Training Exercise, and Culminating Training Event during the mobilization process.
While here, the Kosovo Force 18 unit brought together four National Guard companies from four different states: Utah, North Dakota, Iowa, and Louisiana, to form Task Force Warhorse. The companies include a headquarters element, aerial medical evacuation, CH-47 Chinook and UH-60 Blackhawk lift, as well as a maintenance support package.
The joining of these separate states to form one cohesive unit was spearheaded by Capt. Jonathan Denton, Division West's 166th Aviation Brigade mobilization officer in charge of KFOR 18.
"The training had to be realistic in order to fully prepare the National Guard unit for their upcoming mission," Denton said. "It's an enormous task of providing Medical Evacuation support and air movement force protection to the Kosovo units."
By the end of TF Warhorse's mobilization, they flew over 160 training hours. Their training missions included one Forward Arming and Refueling Point, along with nine MEDEVAC missions simulating saving over 20 lives. "We used true-to-life heavy weight dummies which really helped to add a sense of urgency and training realism," Denton said.
Joining together four different units that have never trained together was an obstacle TF Warhorse's leadership overcame. During the review of their training, Maj. Andre Jeansonne, the medical evacuation commander, said, "Consolidating the unit was my top priority and we accomplished this while at Fort Hood by mixing up the flight crews during training to expand comfort levels and build overall trust within the Task Force."
Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Strater, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter pilot from the Lousianna National Guard's Company F, 2nd Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, said, "This will be a good mission. The medical evacuation unit has real world impact."
Strater really enjoyed his time training at Fort Hood and said, "It?'s an honor to have the mission to participate in something of this magnitude and having the chance to help out," in the upcoming Kosovo mission.
With training complete, Soldiers and leadership of TF Warhorse were validated by Division West aviation Observer-Coach/Trainers, proving ready to provide medical evacuation support, command and control operations, and air movement force protection to ground units currently deployed to Kosovo.
They hit the ground running in Kosovo at the end of January and are now providing excellent medical and logistical support to the local communities and military.