US Army, September 18, 2015 - CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo by Sgt. Erick Yates – Croatian, Slovenian, Swiss and U.S. Army flight crews soared over Kosovo for a multinational, eight-ship helicopter mission, testing their ability to communicate during a large aviation exercise Sept. 16, which took them over several Kosovo Force installations.
The event incorporated three NATO member nations, and allowed the allied aviation flight crews, planners and leaders to build interoperability between one another.
The Multinational Battle Group-East Southern Command Post, also known as its aviation Task Force Hurricane, put the 1.5-hour training event together to establish operating procedures for multinational flight crews conducting combined missions. The multi-ship exercise was a way for NATO aviation forces in Kosovo to measure one another’s capabilities.
“This training helps establish relationships with forces here that are conducting air operations,” said U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Kevin Dowdey, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot delpoed to Kosovo with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment, a U.S. Army Reserve unit out of Los Alamitos, California.
“This is a good opportunity to measure the capabilities of each other and learn how to coordinate conducting missions together,” he said.
The pilots from the other participating nations also said the multi-ship operation was a good way to see how all the forces could identify procedural barriers and accomplish the mission.
“It would be good to see more missions like this,” said 2nd Lt. Tobija Cukjati, a helicopter pilot for the Slovenian Armed Forces.
This training allows for everyone to get familiar with communicating, and see the similarities and differences each military force has when doing air operations, he said.
“We started off with the basics for this exercise today,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Behuniak, a Connecticut National Guard pilot from 1st Battalion, 169th Aviation Regiment, out of Windsor Locks, Connecticut.
If all the air elements assigned to Kosovo have to work together, everyone has to be able to understand one another so the mission can be conducted properly and safely, he said.
Part of the mission for KFOR’s multinational forces is to work with civil authorities and ensure a safe and secure environment, and freedom of movement, in Kosovo.
Staff Sgt. Kathryn Rylander, a U.S. Army Reserve flight crew chief also from the 2-238th, said that training with multinational forces to conduct a large multi-ship air operation is a rare opportunity worth seeing put into action, once the planning is complete.
MNBG-E’s aviators plan to conduct similar air exercises in the future, incorporating additional layrs of complexity in order to increase each mission’s training value. First and foremost, these forces’ mission are to support NATO’s peace support mission in Kosovo. Throughout exercises such as these, their mission comes first, and an appropriate number of aircrafts remain available to support requirements on short notice.