CLAY KASERNE, WIESBADEN, Germany -- U.S. Army Europe aviators from the 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, trained with their counterparts from the German federal police earlier this month to share skills and improve the time it takes for aviators to move supplies to a disaster area by helicopter sling load.

The training, which took place on and off Wiesbaden Army Airfield here, focused on moving 660 kilograms (about 1,455 pounds) of sandbags by sling load in response to a flood disaster. The event showcased and improved the interoperability of the U.S. Army and Bundespolizei aviators and local civil emergency services agencies by lifting the supplies from a field near Weilbach, approximately 10 kilometers east of the airfield. The scenario was played out in turn by 1-214th crews flying UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and German aviators flying Super Puma aircraft.

A group of approximately 100 spectators, including area firefighters, police officers, journalists and local citizens, observed the exercise.

Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Shattuck, a standardizations instructor for the 1-214th, explained that the training was important for two reasons: to showcase the capabilities of U.S. Soldiers here and to build capabilities and relationships with their German counterparts. He said the training was vital to ensuring that U.S. forces here and German law enforcement personnel can respond quickly to potential flood events and work together to bring emergency relief supplies if requested.

Before the load can be picked up it must be inspected by a certified sling load inspector. Spc. Billy Mitchell, one of just three certified inspectors in the 1-214th, was on the job for this mission. That job includes weighing the load, inspecting the hoisting equipment, and double-checking that any potential malfunctions have been identified and corrected before the load is transported.

Once the load was OK'd to go, the lifting helicopter was called in by the ground crew at the Weilbach landing zone to fly from WAAF to pick it up. Upon arriving the ground team quickly guided the aircraft into position and attached the cargo net holding the sandbags. In less than a minute the pilot had the load off the ground and was heading toward the designated drop zone.
Capt. Ralf Paulus, one of the pilots flying the Super Puma during the event, said he believes this kind of training is essential, so everyone will be ready when disaster strikes. "It is important to know each other's procedures and to see how we can work together," he said.

When a national government formally declares a disaster, it can request American assistance. If the U.S. government determines the affected nation cannot respond effectively to a declared disaster without aid, it can ask for help via its U.S. embassy and the U.S. State Department, said Dana Chivers, an advisor to the U.S. European Command for the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance. The embassy makes a formal request to OFDA for assistance, and OFDA determines what the U.S. response will be, Chivers said.

He listed four possible responses: funding assistance for the affected area; buying or shipping relief supplies; deploying personnel to manage U.S. response actions; and requesting interagency support if a unique capability not readily available in the civilian sector is needed.

If Department of Defense capabilities are needed, OFDA can request them through the State Department to the Secretary of Defense. If there is a threat to life, he added, U.S. combatant commanders with the needed capabilities in the vicinity can conduct immediate lifesaving efforts for up to 72 hours without the secretary's written approval.

The 1-214th is a subordinate unit of USAREUR's 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, which routinely trains for and conducts a variety of missions throughout Europe with U.S., NATO and partner forces, including combat readiness, civil search, multinational medical evacuation and disaster response.


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