1-501st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade, currently assigned to Task Force Falcon, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (LI), worked alongside Soldiers from the Bulgarian Land Forces and 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, during a combined arms live fire exercise (CALFEX) titled Peace Sentinel in Koren, Bulgaria, July 19-20.
The CALFEX was part of a larger U.S. European Command, U.S. Army Europe-led annual exercise that took place in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria titled Saber Guardian 17 and involved more than 25,000 service members from over 20 Ally and partner nations.
“It’s extremely important that our NATO Allies realize that the United States has their back,” said Capt. Vincent Franchino, platoon leader and AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot with C Company, 1-501st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade. “Through the process of planning and executing missions together, we get a real strong understanding of each other’s tactics, techniques and procedures. That understanding improves our interoperability and success in future missions.”
The planning began with a capabilities briefing to the Bulgarian Land Forces’ brigade commander, which offered information on what the AH-64 Apache helicopter can offer to troops on the battlefield. The two groups then formulated a training scenario that would be challenging and require them to work together closely to successfully defeat the enemy forces.
During the CALFEX’s first day, the exercise intentionally concluded with the Bulgarian Land Forces becoming enveloped by the enemy. The second day saw the aviators placing direct fire in front of the Bulgarians, allowing to gain the advantage and breach the enemy’s forces.
While the eye can often be drawn directly to the “action” during large-scale training exercises like Saber Guardian, it’s important to realize that there is a lot of work and training that goes on behind the scenes to ensure these missions are a success.
“The operations tempo at Saber Guardian has been really high,” said Sgt. Jacklyn Rockwell, an AH-64 Apache helicopter repairer with C Company, 1-501st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade. “Due to that high op tempo, we’ve had a lot of aircraft maintenance. Our Soldiers have taken a lot of ownership and responsibility for their aircraft since being out here at Saber Guardian, just wanting the aircraft to drive on and be able to participate in these missions.”
Saber Guardian is an annual, multinational exercise conducted since 2013 that rotates among Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. The exercise is part of U.S. European Command's Joint Exercise Program designed to enhance joint combined interoperability with allied and partner nations.