ILLESHEIM, Germany- On July 11 a helicopter task force comprised of four UH-60L Black Hawks and Soldiers from the Colorado, Utah and Kansas Army National Guard arrived here to support Special Operations Command - Europe’s components during training and exercises throughout Europe for the next few months.
The mission gives National Guard Soldiers an opportunity to enhance their unit deployment readiness that would generally take years to materialize while augmenting the training of U.S. and partner nation special operations forces for a few short months.
“Moving from a good idea around a water cooler to actually executing this idea gives the Soldiers an opportunity to focus on the training objectives of their customers (United States Army Europe, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade and Special Operations Command Europe),” said Lt. Col Anthony D. Somogyi, the task force commander and Colorado ARNG member from Palisade, Colorado.
Since September 2001, the ARNG has deployed in support of the Global War on Terrorism alongside the active component, which provided Soldiers opportunities to build capabilities and relationships with the active components.
“This is a great mission for ARNG Aviation because we find ourselves being asked to work with special forces in [global contingency operations] quite a bit and this is another way we can work with them and figure out how to support them,” said Somogyi.
As a direct support aviation task unit, the ARNG HTF will conduct multi-functional aviation support to SOCEUR by providing air movement, static and military freefall support, and fast-rope insertion and extraction system capability. The task force will also provide support to the 12th CAB and USAREUR when not supporting SOCUER mission requests.
Black hawk pilot Chief Warrant Officer 2 Patrick Cavanagh, a Colorado ARNG member and Denver native, stated he is looking forward to working with the forces here in Germany and increasing his proficiency as a pilot. Cavanagh has been a pilot in the ARNG for 11 years.
This is the first phase of what is hoped to be an enduring mission set, said Somogyi. This HTF is the “proof of concept” and scheduled to rotate back to the U.S. at the beginning of October. If approved, the aircraft will remain in theater to allow follow on forces from the ARNG to gain experience and help build readiness on longer rotations.
As well as having built the HTF from the ground up, they also plan to build leadership at all levels by developing NATO interoperability and expertise, Somogyi stated.
By the end, this first wave of guard Soldiers should prove their value and ability to support SOCUER for the future direct support aviation task unit missions in the European Command Area of Responsibility, said Somogyi.