US Army, April 17, 2015 - KIRIBATI by Sgt. Melissa Parrish, Multinational Battle Group - East (KFOR) - The sounds of helicopter blades spinning cracked through the sky as six helicopters from three different nations zoom from Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo to Camp Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny (CMLT) to pick up Hungarian army infantrymen for a mission.
U.S., Croatian, Slovenian and Hungarian soldiers, all part of Multinational Battle Group-East participated in Operation Gold Rush, a training exercise where infantryman were airlifted for a mock operation, April 15.
“It was our job to take 91 Hungarian infantrymen to assault an objective,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Quentin Hastings, an instructor pilot with the 1st Battalion, 150th Aviation Regiment, New Jersey National Guard and the air mission commander for the operation. “We provided helicopters to the infantry unit so they could be dropped off on the mountain, which they otherwise couldn’t reach on foot.”
Three U.S. Black Hawks, two Croatian Mi-8’s and one Slovenian UH-1Y Super Huey, were used for the mission.
The six helicopters flew in a group to pick up the Hungarian soldiers from CMLT and placed them into different insertion points in the mountains of Kosovo. Hungarian soldiers assaulted up the mountain to complete their ground mission.
Once aviation received a call they extracted the infantryman and brought them back to their camp and the mission was complete.
“Today was an absolute success,” said Hastings. “There are many more variables involved when working with other nations. From performance abilities to the different aircraft to the communication, all around many things are different. The great thing is that we are all pilots and the aviation language is English, so we were able to cross mission execution boundaries and communicate with each other and accomplish the mission efficiently.”
MNBG-E is made up of several countries and the missions often require different nations to work together.
“We don’t fight wars as individuals,” said Hastings. “Training with our NATO allies keeps up our proficiency and strengthens our ability to complete missions successfully.”
This was the first multinational mission for the Slovenian pilots.
“This is the first time we were able to fly with other countries,” said Slovenia Army Maj. Franko Jesensek, a helicopter pilot. “It had some challenging moments. We don’t usually fly with six other aircraft like we did today, so that was quite an experience. We are used to flying with just one aircraft. It was harder because you have to communicate with the other pilots and pay close attention to what they are doing.”
The flight crews met at the end of the day to discuss the pros and cons of the mission. All of the pilot teams agreed that the mission was a victory for every nation.