Chievres AB, Belgium October 24th 2017.
Aviation Brigade Rotations In Europe
In late October 2017 the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium becomes a hive of activity with the arrival of two ships from the United States. Their arrival heralded the deployment for the next nine months of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, from Fort Hood-Killeen / Hood AAF, Texas, USA in support of Atlantic Resolve. The 1st ACB Commander is Colonel Cain Baker.
Further details on 1st Air Cavalry Brigade can be found on their website at www.hood.army.mil/1stcavdiv/pages/units/1acb/default.aspx
The off-loading of 70 plus helicopters and 700 plus pieces of equipment and 1,900 plus First Team Personnel was overseen by the 21st Theatre Sustainment Command, from Chievres Air Base, Belgium together with members of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.
The 21st Theatre Sustainment Command (21 TSC) is commanded by Major General Steven A. Shapiro, it is Head Quartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany with units throughout the USAREUR (United States Army Europe) area of operations, Chievres, Belgium being one of those units. More about the 21st TSC can be found on their website at www.eur.army.mil/21TSC/
The ships carrying the helicopters and equipment were due to off-load their cargo in the Port of Livorno (Pisa) Italy, however a decision was made to switch the port of off-load to Zeebrugge, Belgium.
The off-loading of the helicopters and equipment is normally accomplished in 96 hours. However on this occasion the 21st TSC managed to off-load all the helicopters and equipment in just 52 hours saving a massive 44 hours in doing so. This was a significant achievement for the 21st TSC of which they were rightly proud. This was not just a significant achievement by 21st TSC but also for the Air Cavalry, in that in that period of just 52 hours the offload took place, the helicopter blades were unfolded and the helicopters ground run.
Once the helicopters had been ground run at the Port of Zeebrugge they were flown in several waves to Chievres Air Base (AB) where they were temporarily stored on a disused section of runway and around the base.
Present on the Press Day were four different types of helicopter, they were the CH-47F Chinook, the UH-60M Blackhawk the HH-60M Blackhawk and the AH-64E Apache.
The CH-47F is the latest variant of the Chinook helicopter; it has a full glass (digital cockpit). It is capable of carrying approximately 40 combat ready troops, 24 litters (stretchers) and can be converted from these roles to cargo carrying in less than 15 minutes. The latest innovation being from a smooth floor under normal operations, to sections of floor that are easily turned over to produce rollers to assist the on-loading and off-loading of palletised cargo. We were informed that under normal flying conditions an airborne Medic is now carried so that if the aircraft has to go into an area and recover casualties s/he can immediately begin triage on those injured.
There were three variants of the UH-60 Blackhawk, the earlier L model and the later M and the HH-60M Blackhawk. The L model as pictured is used in the Assault role and the M models in the Aeromedical (MEDEVAC) and assault roles.
The AH-64E Apache is the latest variant off the Boeing (Mesa, Arizona) production lines. They form the Attack Reconnaissance Battalion and were assigned from the 1st Battalion 227th Aviation Regiment, First Attack.
The 77 helicopters present on October 24th were due to be deployed to Katterbach and Illesheim, AB Germany. From there a small number, believed to be 90 Soldiers, 4 x UH-60 Blackhawks and 4 x AH-64E Apaches were going to be deployed to Powdiz, Poland.
An additional 5 x UH-60 Blackhawks were going to be air-freighted together with 80 Soldiers to Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia and 5 x UH-60 Blackhawks and 50 Soldiers to Mihail Kogainiceanu, Romania also being air-freighted.
Atlantic Resolve is about training and missions throughout Europe. It will include missions involved with medical transport, exercise support and aviation operations throughout Europe to improve (enhance) interoperability and strengthen relationships with exercise partners.
More information can be found on social media at #AtlanticResolve or by following the link www.eur.army.mil/AtlanticResolve
1st ACB are due to be operational from November 2017 to August 2018, they are replacing 10th ACB who are returning to their home base, Fort Drum, Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield in New York State USA.
Our thanks to our host at Chievres AB, Belgium, Lt. Col Don Peters, Commanding Officer of the 21st TSC Public Affairs Officer and his Team. Thanks also to 21st TSC Public Affairs at Headquarters Kaiserslautern, Germany for their assistance and technical advice.