Recently, the 166th Aviation Brigade’s 1st Battalion, 337th Aviation Regiment, was given the mission to train, mobilize and validate an aviation task force for Kosovo. Training included conducting a personnel recovery lane training exercise, a collective training exercise, and culminating training event during the mobilization process.
While here, the Kosovo Force 18 unit brought together four National Guard companies from four different states: Utah, North Dakota, Iowa and Louisiana, to form Task Force Warhorse. The companies include a headquarters element, aerial medical evacuation, Chinook and Black Hawk lift, as well as a maintenance support package.
The joining of these separate states to form one cohesive unit was spearheaded by Capt. Jonathan Denton, Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade mobilization officer in charge of Kosovo Force 18.
“The training had to be realistic in order to fully prepare the National Guard unit for their upcoming mission,” Denton said. “It’s an enormous task of providing Medical Evacuation support and air movement force protection to the Kosovo units.”
By the end of Warhorse’s mobilization, they flew more than 160 training hours. Their training missions included one forward arming and refueling point, along with nine medevac missions simulating saving more than 20 lives.
“We used true-to-life heavy weight dummies which really helped to add a sense of urgency and training realism,” Denton said.
Joining together four different units that have never trained together was an obstacle Warhorse’s leadership overcame. During the review of their training, Maj. Andre Jeansonne, the medical evacuation commander, said, “Consolidating the unit was my top priority and we accomplished this while at Fort Hood by mixing up the flight crews during training to expand comfort levels and build overall trust within the Task Force.”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Strater, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot from the Lousiana National Guard’s Foxtrot Company, 2nd Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, said he really enjoyed his time training at Fort Hood.
“It’s an honor to have the mission to participate in something of this magnitude and having the chance to help out,” he said.
With training complete, soldiers and leadership of Warhorse were validated by Division West aviation trainers, proving ready to provide medical evacuation support, command and control operations, and air movement force protection to ground units currently deployed to Kosovo.
They hit the ground running in Kosovo at the end of January and are now providing excellent medical and logistical support to the local communities and military.