Nightstalkers bring heavy assault aerial platform to European exercise
When special operations forces need to move a large component to a target by air, they often look to the heavy assault Chinook helicopter to do the job.
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment brought this capability to Exercise Jackal Stone 2011 with two MH-47G Chinook helicopters and crews. SOAR's expertise is getting special operations forces to a target, under any environmental and combat conditions, plus or minus 30 seconds from when the ground force commander needs to be there.
"It was a great tactical and cultural learning opportunity for all involved," said the senior 160th leader on-site. "For most of us, it was our first time training with these partner nations and even the specific U.S. forces involved, and it was mostly their first time working from one of our highly modified helicopters."
Crews supported Bulgarian, Croatian, Norwegian, Romanian and Ukrainian special operations forces and their U.S. training group counterparts from Naval Special Warfare Unit 2 and the Army's 10th Special Forces Group.
They conducted fast rope, ladder, hoist and ground infiltration and exfiltration drills from the Chinooks in remote, mountainous and overwater training sites. The mission locations and duration frequently required aerial refueling operations with the U.S. Air Force's 352nd Special Operations Group.
The first week of training provided all involved the opportunity to begin joint mission planning and conduct familiarization training. Then the special operations forces moved to intense exercise scenarios in week two, actively involving ground, air and combat enabler assets to plan and execute a mission.
"This exercise afforded us the opportunity to work together and work through how to incorporate our processes and tactics, techniques and procedures in a realistic training environment," the SOAR leader explained. "These shared experiences enhance our overall readiness and help us foster relationships with our European partner nation special operations forces before being in a tactical environment."
Exercise Jackal Stone is an annual training event hosted by U.S. Special Operations Command, Europe, designed to enhance interoperability amongst the participating partner nation special operations forces. This year's exercise was conducted in Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine from Sept. 6 through Sept. 30 with participation from nine nations.
Article by Kimberly Tiscione, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment