SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras, –
Army-Navy week kicked off in fine style Dec. 7-9 for the Soldiers of Joint Task Force-Bravo and Sailors and Marines of the U.S.S. Wasp, when three Army helicopters and more than 40 crew members landed aboard the amphibious assault ship for deck landing qualification training in the Caribbean Sea.
In a week full of tradition dating back to 1890, the U.S. Military Academy "Black Knights" face the U.S. Naval Acadamy "Midshipmen" Saturday in a game that is one of the most enduring rivalries in college football. Army-Navy week is characterized, particularly at each service academy and by alumni, by inter-service rivalry and good-natured pranks leading up to the big game.
But it was all about the joint team for the crews of the UH-60, HH-60 and CH-47 helicopters and the Sailors of the Wasp as the week kicked off.
Monday afternoon, 46 pilots, flight medics, crew chiefs, and command and control members took off from Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, and flew to the Wasp - which is nearing the end of a three-month sea deployment from her home port of Norfolk, Va.
Deck landing qualification training gives aircrews practice in landing and taking off safely from a ship's flight deck. It is accomplished by multiple takeoffs and landings in sequence, which allows not only the actual flight time and experience but provides training in signals and communications with the ship's flight deck crews and air traffic controllers.
"Getting our pilots and crews trained to effectively land and take off from an amphibious platform adds another dimension to our capabilities to respond to humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and other operations JTF-Bravo supports," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Sal Herrera, commander of the 1st Battalion-228th Aviation regiment attached to JTF-Bravo.
Colonel Herrera piloted a CH-47 and took part in the training, in addition to being the officer in charge of the mission.
Another advantage to this week's training was the fact that, according to Colonel Herrera, this was the first time in recent memory the crews actually were able to stay aboard the ship for the duration of the mission.
"We really appreciate the top-down support and hospitality that (U.S. Navy) Capt. (Lowell) Crow and his people provided us," Colonel Herrera said. "Not only did it make us feel welcome, but it literally made the training possible.
"Due to the flight hours required to get to and from the ship, we could not have made it there, trained and come back to land in a single day. Staying aboard also gave our crews a chance to become familiar with ship-board operations and safety, plus we all gained a new, joint, experience by living on a ship for a couple of days."
On Saturday, as they have since 1890, members of the Army and Navy will be rooting for their respective teams to emerge supreme. But for the Wasp crew and the JTF-Bravo Soldiers, this week's training proved that working together when it counts is much more important than gaining bragging rights on the gridiron.