Troops hone medical evacuation skills in hoist drill at 10-nation exercise in Germany

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Marion Pettus, left, and Sgt. Alexander Whitmore, of Company C, 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, recover ''downed pilot'' Chief Warrant Officer3 Elliot Boyle using the rescue hoist during the Combined Resolve exercise on Feb. 18, 2021, at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany.


By IMMANUEL JOHNSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 20, 2021

HOHENFELS, Germany — A U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter hovered above the wintry Bavarian landscape after midnight as soldiers from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade winched an “injured” pilot to safety.

They were taking part Thursday in the first live hoist drill to be held in about five years at Hohenfels, the only Army combat training center outside the U.S., during the 10-nation Combined Resolve exercise.

The drill began Wednesday night in cold, damp German weather and lasted several hours into the next day, providing “realistic training under challenging night conditions,” JMRC said on its Facebook page.

It took troops through the key steps of a medical evacuation mission — recovering the wounded and injured from “any terrain, anytime, anywhere,” said Sgt. 1st Class Garrick Morgenweck, a JMRC trainer who helped lead the exercise

Some 4,700 forces from 10 NATO member states and partner nations are taking part in Combined Resolve, which is designed to build relationships between international troops and boost combat skills.

Most of the troops taking part in the exercise are from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division out of Fort Hood, Texas, who are on a nine-month rotation in Germany in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the U.S.-led effort aimed at deterring Russian aggression along NATO’s eastern flank.

Half a dozen soldiers from the storied 101st Airborne Division’s 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, which is also in Europe on a nine-month rotation in support of Atlantic Resolve, took part in the hoist drill. Some 400 of the brigade's troops had come from Illesheim, about 150 miles north of Hohenfels, to the training area for Combined Resolve.

Alongside the Americans, forces from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania and Slovenia are taking part in Combined Resolve, which runs until March 5.

With the exercise taking place for a second time under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, participating troops are following strict illness prevention rules, including restriction of movement and regular testing, the 7th Army Training Command, which oversees the Hohenfels training area, said in a statement when Combined Resolve started early this month.

The exercise is part of Atlantic Resolve, which was launched in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and invaded eastern Ukraine.

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A U.S. Army HH-60M MEDEVAC Black Hawk helicopter takes part in hoist operations during the Combined Resolve exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Thurs., Feb. 18, 2021. The drill, which began the previous night in cold, damp German weather and lasted into the early hours of Thursday, providing “realistic training under challenging night conditions,” JMRC said.