CARAT helps pilots reach a ‘higher level’
August 23, 2005
SUBIC BAY, Philippines — U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Amy Sadeghzadeh was the first woman to ever fly a Royal Brunei Air Force helicopter.
When she called in to the tower — during a training mission as part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training — there was shocked silence on the radio.
“I didn’t think they would let me fly at first,” she said. There are no female pilots in Brunei’s military.
It was one of a handful of new and unusual experiences for the small detachment of pilots and crew from Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (light) 45 from San Diego, embarked aboard the USS Rodney M. Davis for CARAT.
The training allowed Sadeghzadeh and other junior pilots a chance to plan the tactical training during each segment of the multi-phase exercise, something usually left for more senior staff.
“They got to observe higher levels of tactical planning than they usually do,” said the officer in change, Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Klein. “They came up with all the tactical planning. They will not get that opportunity again” for many years.
The pilots also worked with different nations’ aircraft and ships and with the variety of U.S. Navy ships that participated in each phase.
“Not a lot of pilots get a chance to land on so many types of ships,” Sadeghzadeh said.
In Singapore during war games, the pilots engaged a real submarine, something they had only accomplished in simulators in the past.
“We train to do it all the time. We actually got to do it,” said pilot Lt. j.g. J. J. Mott.
The aviators also fell under a Singapore ship’s control during the training, which gave them practice with other styles of command, they said.
In recent years, aviators have played a more significant role in bilateral training such as CARAT as battle simulations become more complex, Klein said.
The helicopters also showed their versatility during the tsunami relief efforts this year. While helicopter units mainly move or rescue people and hunt subs, during the tsunami aftermath they provided the bulk of the airlift and rescue efforts. Helicopters are also serving maritime security efforts. As such, they’re being more integrated into exercises.
“We’re working as much aviation stuff into each phase as possible,” Klein said.
The training gave pilots a chance to learn about other countries’ aviation programs. Brunei, for example, is buying a frigate on which to land helicopters, so the nation was eager to see how the detachment and ship work together.
In Brunei, however, there is no air navy — the helicopters belong to its air force and the ship to its navy, an unusual arrangement.
HSL-45’s detachment of five pilots, two aircrewmen and about a dozen maintainers sailed with the ship to every phase of CARAT all summer. Since the ship is small, they can only bring one aircraft and a small crew.
But despite several months of flying and greater participation in the exercises, the detachment didn’t miss a single mission — a testament to the maintenance staff, Klein said.