27 June 2008

Americans, Germans train air assault ops at Hohenfels

U.S. Hueys drop German personnel during air assault training Wednesday at Hohenfels, Germany. Photo: Seth Robson / S&S

About 100 US and German troops are participating in training exercises at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels in advance of the Germans' upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. The German parliament approved sending an additional 1000 troops to join ISAF forces, bringing the total to 4500.

One of them, Sgt. 1st Class Hubert Beer, 34, of the 104th Panzer Battalion, said soldiers in Afghanistan will likely soon execute the first troop air assault missions in German military history.

Next month Germany, which has so far held its troops back from combat roles, will take over responsibility for a quick-reaction force in Afghanistan — a mission that requires combat troops to quickly respond to security threats in the country, Beer said.

"The Germans [in the QRF] will have to do [air assault] operations like this," he added, as he prepared to board a U.S. Huey helicopter at Hohenfels.

Beer, a veteran of several missions to Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, said the German army recently created a special air assault unit — Jaeger Regiment 1 — and it is upgrading from Hueys to newer NH90 Eurocopters.

Black Hawk pilot and Falcon officer in charge Maj. Karl Wojkun, 32, of Fairfax, Va., has flown multiple air assault missions in Afghanistan explains the value of air assault training in what can later be the "surreal experience" of putting down in a hot landing zone.

"You can see people shooting at you, especially with night-vision goggles, and objects appear larger but it is very quiet. You see it happen and your training kicks in."

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