LIELVARDE AIR BASE, Latvia – Soaring through the sky, the Soldiers of 3rd General Aviation Support Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI), embarked on one of their last training exercises, flying to Adazi Training Area, Latvia, on Sept. 8 to participate in a day-night aerial gunnery involving their helicopter weapons.
Soldiers of 3-10 GSAB were brought to Latvia to participate in Atlantic Resolve, a NATO mission between the U.S. and its European allies and partners to promote peace and ensure stability across Eastern Europe.
Lt. Adam Kunkle, platoon leader of 3rd Platoon, B Company, 3-10 GSAB, explained the facets involved in working with others and in remaining tactically proficient.
"This is a mandatory proficiency test and qualification of weapons," he said. "Additionally, it was an opportunity to work with and use host nation resources that have been provided to us. This had us working on coordination efforts with Latvian forces as well as the Canadian Enhanced Forward Presence group on this base."
The training was a chance for the helicopter crews of a UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook to showcase their ability to work together in assessing threats on the battlefield.
The teams hovered around the range, prepping their gunners first in a dry run so they knew what to expect later when they would come back around for the live-fire portion of the exercise. While this sort of training is routine in the U.S., the change of location to Europe really gave the Soldiers something new to consider.
Staff Sgt. Neil McCrea, platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, B Company, 3-10 GSAB, spoke on how this change in location benefits his Soldiers.
"This specific table gives us a different perspective of the battlefield and helps challenge our Soldiers, breaking up some of that muscle memory they may have developed from ranges back home," he said.
After the daytime portion of the exercise, the crews had to prepare to fly and fire in the dead of night. Although it was the same course, the unfamiliarity with the darkened range would prove to be a challenge for gunners searching for their targets.
"The visibility issue adds a little stress to the range," said McCrea. "Without being able to see their weapon completely, Soldiers have to do certain actions by feel rather than sight."
Soldiers of 3-10 GSAB hope the training area will be built up into a range used by many NATO allies and partners in the future. Kunkle expressed his thoughts on what this exercise means for NATO allies and partners going forward.
"We’re helping to develop a quickly growing range complex with the operational procedures of an allied nation, and Adazi has a lot of serious potential for future operations," he said.