ILLESHEIM, Germany -- On July 11 a helicopter task force of four UH-60L Black Hawks and Soldiers from the Colorado, Utah and Kansas Army National Guard arrived here to support components of Special Operations Command Europe during training and exercises throughout Europe.
The mission, which will last several months, is meant to allow National Guard Soldiers the opportunity to strangethen their unit deployment readiness while at the same time augmenting the training of U.S. and partner nation special operations forces.
"Moving from a good idea around a water cooler to actually executing this idea gives the Soldiers an opportunity to focus on the training objectives of their customers (U.S. Army Europe, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and Special Operations Command Europe)," said Lt. Col Anthony D. Somogyi, the task force commander and Colorado National Guardsman
Since September 2001, the National Guard has deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism alongside the active component, which has allowed Soldiers to build capabilities and relationships with the active components.
"This is a great mission for (National Guard) aviation, because we find ourselves being asked to work with special forces in (global contingency operations) quite a bit, and this is another way we can work with them and figure out how to support them," said Somogyi.
As a direct support aviation task unit, the National Guard helicopter task force will provide Special Operations Command Europe with air movement support, static and military freefall support, and fast-rope insertion and extraction system capability. When not meeting Special Operations Command Europe requests, the task force will support the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and United States Army Europe.
This is the first phase of what is hoped to be an enduring mission set, said Somogyi. The National Guard helicopter task force is the "proof of concept" and is scheduled to rotate back to the U.S. at the beginning of October. If approved, the aircraft will remain in theater to allow follow on forces from the National Guard to gain experience and build readiness on longer rotations.
By the end of the mission, this first wave of National Guard Soldiers should have demonstrated their value, said Somogyi, as well as their capacity to support Special Operations Command Europe in future support aviation task unit missions in the European Command area of responsibility.