HOHENFELS, Germany — Soggy landings are among the many challenges faced by 12th Combat Aviation Brigade troops during a mission rehearsal exercise here this month.

The brigade — scheduled to deploy to Iraq later this year — has 1,500 soldiers at Hohenfels’ Joint Multinational Readiness Center for the exercise, aimed at honing skills for the downrange mission.

Aviators from 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment conducted an air assault Thursday with 55 soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment into Landing Zone Osprey, near Hohenfels. The mission started in light rain that, according to 3-158 Black Hawk crew chief Sgt. Matthew Broughton, was no problem for the helicopters.

“The Black Hawk is an all-weather aircraft. It doesn’t matter if there is snow, rain or the hot sand in Iraq. But sitting here in the window kind of sucks in the rain,” said the 30-year-old Doniphan, Mo., native, whose job involves manning a machine gun mounted in one of the side doors of the aircraft.

After a short flight from a concrete helipad at Albertshof — a collection of barracks for troops training at Hohenfels — the 3-158 Black Hawks and three 12th CAB Apache attack helicopters touched down at a pickup zone inside the main training area at Hohenfels, known as “The Box.”

As the machines landed, some sank to one side in mud that left rotors scything head high in places.

That added a touch of drama to preflight briefings for 2nd Cav troops, some of whom were taking their first flight in a helicopter.

Another Black Hawk crew chief, Spc. Ryan Myers, 29, of Westminster, Colo., told the infantrymen — who normally fight from eight-wheeled armored personnel carriers — they should take a few paces and drop to the ground after leaving the aircraft. If they land on a slope, infantrymen should drop immediately after leaving or get out on the side where the blade is rotating furthest from the ground, he said.

Soon the Strykers were safely strapped into their seats and the Black Hawks and Apaches soared into the sky for a half-hour flight across pine-covered hills and patchwork green Bavarian farmland. At the landing zone, the machines swooped down, disgorged their passengers, who quickly flopped down in the mud, then headed back to base to prepare for their next mission.

Capt. Jared Koelling, an assistant planner with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 12th CAB, said soldiers from the unit have been at Hohenfels since Feb. 11.

The first phase of training involved deploying to the training area and completing reception, staging, onward movement and situational exercises.

The 10-day mission rehearsal exercise inside The Box, which started Wednesday, focuses on areas such as air assault (flying soldiers into enemy territory) and air movement (taking soldiers and supplies between U.S. held positions) by Black Hawks and Chinook transport helicopters, route reconnaissance, and cordon-and-security missions by the Apaches, Koelling said.

The mission rehearsal is for 12th CAB’s Brigade Headquarters; 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment; 412th Aviation Support Battalion and 2nd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, said Koelling, 26, of Lawrenceburg, Ind.

One 12th CAB unit — 3rd Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment — has done its mission rehearsal exercise.

author picture
Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now