SKOPJE, North Macedonia — Over the past two weeks, U.S. and U.K. rotary-wing pilots have worked hand-in-hand, planning and training effectively as a multi-national team.
On Wednesday, leaders from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade worked through an aviation rehearsal of concept exercise in lockstep with the British 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team and the 1st Aviation Brigade Combat Team, also from Britain.
The rehearsal of concept, or ROC, drill is a final walk-through rehearsal to ensure the final coordination of pre-established plans are deconflicted before execution. This particular ROC drill allowed rotary aviation participants to visualize how the various U.K. and U.S. rotary-wing aircraft would move during the distinguished visitors’ day and main joint forcible entry component of the North Macedonia piece of the Swift Response 22 exercise.
Planned movements involved U.S. and U.K. CH-47 Chinooks, U.S. UH-60 Blackhawks and U.K. AH-64 Apache helicopters. The Chinooks and Blackhawks would demonstrate personnel movements and air assaults, while the Apaches would demonstrate attack and defense maneuvers.
Pilots walked through a large terrain model in a deliberate step-by-step format to iron out any kinks in the plan. There were two uniforms, but only one team.
“Today’s ROC drill was the last chance to meet face-to-face with everyone for tomorrow’s big event,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Shayne McCullough, CH-47 Chinook pilot with Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment. “It allowed us to work through any last-minute changes, meet all the major players and gave us a chance to show our senior leaders our plan.”
With so many aviation assets in play for the exercise in Macedonia, the British 1st Aviation Brigade Combat Team headquarters staff was utilized to enhance the planning efforts. This brand-new unit is the U.K.’s very first aviation brigade combat team. The new brigade is based in the village of Middle Wallop near Andover, an important hub of the U.K. Armed Forces.
“To have an aviation maneuver brigade is a big deal,” explained Maj. Hannah Hayward, plans officer and pilot with the 1st Aviation Brigade Combat Team. “We are here for Swift Response to assist in the planning efforts of 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team and elevate the focus for specific combat maneuver capabilities within the total force.”
Exercise Swift Response is an annual U.S. Army Europe and Africa multinational training exercise that takes place this year in Eastern Europe, the Arctic High North, Baltics, and Balkans from May 2-20. It aims to present combat credible Army forces in Europe and Africa and enhance readiness by building airborne interoperability with Allies and Partners and the integration of joint service partnerships.
Approximately 9,000 service members from 17 Allied and partner nations are participating in the exercise, including approximately 2,700 U.S. Soldiers and Airmen.