By Pfc. Nicholas VidroAugust 23, 2017
LIEPAJA, Latvia -- Flying low and fast over the countryside, U.S. Army Soldiers of the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, scattered on a mission that would test their skill and cunning while trying to survive in enemy-held territory over four days across Latvia.
The exercise, known as Falcon's Talon, showcased the soldiers' ability to stay on mission should they have to operate while evading enemy forces after their base of operations was compromised. Capt. Zachary Johnston, officer-in-charge of this stage of the mission and assistant operations officer for 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, went into detail on how his team planned to accomplish their task.
"We're out here as a part of Falcon's Talon, where we are evading and camouflaging our aircraft to save combat power until we can link up with coalition forces to set up an offensive strategy," he said.
This portion of the exercise had aviation crews looking at new challenges and creating solutions on the fly. From the moment the team landed at their first hide site, they were faced with the task of learning how to effectively hide a UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook, as well as covertly meeting with allied forces.
This part of Falcon's Talon highlights key aspects of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a NATO mission involving the U.S. and Europe in a combined effort to strengthen bonds of friendship and to deter aggression. Johnston explained what part Latvian forces played during this training, which showcases allies working together on extreme training scenarios.
"This mission is parallel to [Operation Atlantic Resolve] because we're working with our Latvian allies. They've sacrificed their time to support our operations all over the country," he said.
The exercise was planned around putting the U.S. team in a difficult situation and seeing how they fared. With the aid of Latvian allies throughout the exercise, the team was able to stay hidden and successfully evade their simulated opponents. That aid included Latvian forces providing a combined force to create a secure location for the aircraft, giving American forces key knowledge of the terrain features to help hide aircraft, and providing information on nearby towns and settlements.
The aviation team that embarked on the four-day mission is serving as an example for other aviation teams to look at in the future, but that doesn't mean they'll grow complacent when the mission is over. Each team member is already looking at things they could have done better and are making necessary adjustments for future missions. Spc. Benjamin Freda, a UH-60 crew chief with 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade,, reflected on what he learned from the experience.
"This exercise has made me more mindful of the important things I'll need to pack and prepare for in future training," he said.