Ask any Soldier, and they’ll likely tell you that being a pilot ranks right at the top as one of the most coveted jobs in the Army. But what happens when you have to make an emergency landing behind enemy lines?
Soldiers from 1-214th General Support Aviation Battalion, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade execute a personnel recovery exercise at the Nowa Deba Training Area, Poland, April 4, 2022.
The exercise begins with a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter suffering a maintenance issue forcing the aircrew to land in simulated hostile territory. After safely landing the aircraft, the aircrew, along with a team of seven reconnaissance soldiers from the Polish Armed Forces, begin the ground portion of the exercise.
“We do this [personnel recovery training], so we can always learn, so we can always improve,” said Lt. Col. Rhian A. Hudson, commander of the 1-214th GSAB, 12 CAB.
The group hurries to a hide site inside the woodline to conduct emergency satellite communication (SATCOM) using their combat survivor evader locator (CSEL) radio.
“The main focus of the exercise is the TOC (tactical operations center) and how they would react to a personnel recovery evasion,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Charlie Smith, UH-60 Blackhawk pilot, 1-214th GSAB, 12 CAB.
The Polish reconnaissance soldiers from the Polish Armed Forces brought an excellent skillset in personnel recovery and were happy to exchange ideas with the U.S. Soldiers.
“We try to involve some new ideas from both Armies to train,” added one of the Polish soldiers. “We saw how the U.S. Soldiers are making personnel recovery, and we compare this with our techniques to see how we can improve our training.”
He talked about the importance of interoperability and how important training between NATO allies is.
“I think that it’s very helpful during the training for both soldiers, and I think that it helps to improve the training,” he said. “It might be helpful when we have to cooperate in the future.”
Also involved in the exercise was an RQ-7B Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
“Typically, we’d be able to provide the video to the unit [and] give real updates on where everybody is at, do all the scan ahead and make sure they’re not walking into something,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brent Unglesbee, shadow platoon leader assigned to 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade. “This type of scenario is really just situational awareness.”
Upon reaching the rescue destination, the U.S. and Polish Soldiers exchanged examples of their own recovery methods.
“In my training, I came to the place [rescue point] with the signal, and the signal was a jacket on the car,” explained the Polish soldier. “I was hiding in the forest, and I saw that he put the jacket on the car, and then I know that’s my recovery team.”
The U.S. Soldiers explained that they place sticks along the side of the road at the rescue point to signal to the recovery team that they have arrived.
All U.S. Army Pilots are required to attend 21 days of SERE training as part of their aviator's curriculum. SERE (survival, escape, resistance, and escape) enables them to return to friendly control without giving aid or comfort to the enemy and to return early in good physical and mental condition.
The 12 CAB is the only enduring aviation brigade present throughout Europe that enables us to deter and defend against threats from any direction.
12 CAB is among other units assigned to V Corps, America's Forward Deployed Corps in Europe. V Corps works alongside NATO Allies and regional security partners to provide combat-ready forces, execute joint and multinational training exercises, and retain command and control for all rotational and assigned units in the European Theater.
For more stories, images, and videos on what the 12 CAB is doing, visit our DVIDS page, https://www.dvidshub.net/unit/12CAB.