POWIDZ, Poland -- The 10th Combat Aviation Brigade’s 1-501st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, currently serving in support of Atlantic Resolve, conducted aircraft-loading operations for eight Apaches on a C5 and two C17 aircraft in a display of increased maneuver capability at Powidz Air Base Oct. 28, 2017.
The Strategic Airlift (STRATAIR) movement of Army rotary-wing aircraft via Air Force flight assets had been uncharted territory for Atlantic Resolve and Powidz Air Base. The operation was a significant undertaking for the 10th CAB and all involved, improving freedom of movement for U.S. Army Europe and furthering the Atlantic Resolve mission of assuring allies and deterring aggression.
“Task Force Falcon and Task Force Iron Dragons built American rotary-wing operations at Powidz from scratch,” said Maj. Matthew G. Easley, the executive officer of 1-501st ARB said. “Our personnel have worked through every issue from how to file flight plans, coordinate crash and rescue, conduct refuel, open Class IX air parts at the Supply Support Activity, and more.”
The battalion worked with Polish air traffic control to incorporate Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) processes into the aircraft operation procedures, which allowed for the convenience of refueling while the aircraft engines were still operating. They were systems that the Polish had not allowed on their airfield before.
During the weekend-long process, four AH-64s were carefully loaded into a U.S. Air Force C5, with another four being loaded later on two C17 aircraft. Flying the aircraft directly to Fort Bliss, Texas will prove a quicker and more efficient method of redeployment than transportation by ship. The coordination that was necessary to make this mission a success had many challenges throughout both the planning and execution process.
“The biggest limitation of conducting aviation operations in Powidz was particularly the lack of experience and shared procedures for operating out of a Polish air base with American rotary-wing aircraft,” Easley said.
The 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th CAB also played a significant role in the STRATAIR redeployment development and execution. They successfully established a working relationship with the Polish “Grom” and “Formoza” Special Forces units to integrate 1-501st ARB operations into their individual training plans in order to make the operation successful.
“We need to demonstrate that it is a growing strategic hub for unit assembly and a base of operations supporting activity in [Eastern Europe],” Col. Claire A. Gill, the commander of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, said. “I like to say that Powidz could be Ramstein or Camp Humphreys in 20 years – it certainly has tremendous potential to grow.”
The air base has the future potential to support railheads, ammunition supply points, supply storage activity warehousing, and eventually a unit headquarters, Gill said.
The operational improvements that have been gained during this period at Powidz will allow for better support and operations for rotational CABs in Eastern Europe in the future, and to have a more ready posture for contingency throughout the Atlantic Resolve area of operations.