NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria-- U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, honed their skills in land navigation, survival, tactical communications and first aid August 25th through 27th, 2019, during a personnel recovery training exercise at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria. A total of 15 Soldiers from the 3-1 AHB participated in this hands-on event.
In the simulation-based exercise, Soldiers from the 3-1 AHB rode on UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to a location unknown to them to spend the night finding their way home, building fire and shelter and practicing capture evasion along the way through the Bulgarian woods.
The Soldiers took no specialized tools with them. Instead, they had to rely on the basic gear they would normally have on a flight, such as compasses and flashlights. Throughout the night, those leading the training threw different obstacles and scenarios for the team to overcome to test the knowledge of what the Soldiers learned in the classroom in a realistic scenario.
1st Lt. Hayden Fancher, a platoon leader with the 3-1 AHB, explained the importance of hands-on application.
"What we have set up today is a culminating event where we are taking all the subjects learned in the classroom over the past few days and applying them into one single real-world training event," Fancher said.
Before the Soldiers began the simulation lanes, training kicked off early on the first day with some refresher courses and practical exercises. The Soldiers got hands-on learning with Combat Survivor Evader Locator (CSEL) radios and Single Channel Ground/Airborne Radio System (SINGARS) and practiced calling in medical evacuations.
After the classroom portion, they moved outside to learn how to evacuate personnel from a Black Hawk helicopter. This training walked the Soldiers through the different types of rescue carries and concluded with an extensive class on the Oregon Spine Splint, a medical device that is used to hoist wounded Soldiers out of an area via helicopter.
Each Soldier had the chance to lead the team throughout the exercise. Pfc. Carly Peterman said that this was the most valuable part of the training for her.
"The teamwork was the most enjoyable part. The safety officers were there to moderate, but they gave us a chance to be in charge, make decisions, and come up with our own ideas, " Peterman said. "We were allowed to be creative as a team and come up with our own solutions to things. Working together was the best part."
Fancher emphasised the importance of Soldiers' confidence as a major factor in their ability to react quickly and calmly if a real life crash or isolation event were to take place.
"The training builds a Soldier's confidence in their own abilities," said Fancher. "It's all stuff they are capable of. It's all stuff they are trained on. It's getting those repetitions and the practice that helps them become more aware of what they can actually do."
This training was only one part of the 3-1 AHB's training in Bulgaria. They are scheduled to continue with aerial gunnery training and qualification ranges through the end of August.