The U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), together with Hellenic Armed Forces, executed Eddie’s Odyssey, a first of its kind, joint training mission on Velopoula Island and over the Aegean Sea, Jan. 13-14. The joint training encompassed transporting troops, aerial coverage operations and providing medical evacuation capabilities to Greek special operations forces (SOF), while they operated on objectives only accessible by traversing long distances over water. The exercise, named after Ugly Eddie, the battalion mascot, consisted of U.S. AH-64E Apaches, UH-60M and HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters working together with Hellenic 1st Aviation Brigade Apaches and CH-47D Chinook helicopters.
“This exercise was really built from the ground up,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Marston, 1st battalion commander. “We had some time on our calendar and at the company level there were folks who were interested in doing over water training and some live fire exercises. Working with the Greeks, we were able to plan Eddie’s Odyssey, an air assault and deliberate attack exercise.”
“These training exercises give the opportunity to both sides to exchange knowledge and experiences that can take place in various conditions,” said a Greek SOF second lieutenant. “The keys to a mission rely on detailed planning, standard operation procedure and training. This event between Greek SOF and U.S. aerial platforms enhances the interoperability between those NATO members.”
A U.S. Black Hawk and Hellenic Chinook worked together to transport troops to the remote island in two phases. The Black Hawk, escorted by a U.S. Apache, touched down on the island first with a small team that identified and set up a landing zone for the larger Chinook. They simultaneously set up a laser targeting system that identified the objective that the Apaches were tasked to destroy. After the Chinook dropped off the rest of the ground forces, U.S. Apaches worked together to engage and destroy the target, identified by the SOF team, using 30mm chain guns and 2.75in rockets. When they needed to return to base, a team of Hellenic Apaches relieved their U.S. counterparts and continued the assault. The two partner forces also used the training opportunity to practice their medical evacuation capabilities off of the island.
In order to fly over the Aegean Sea and execute Eddie’s Odyssey, pilots and flight crews from the 101st had to conduct specialized refresher training on how to react if a helicopter unexpectedly goes down in the water. This “dunker training”, provided by the Hellenic Navy partners, was another first-time training opportunity spearheaded by 1-101. It used a large indoor pool and equipment that simulates an aircraft crash on the water. The mission helps to strengthen readiness and lethality through collective training across multinational allies and partners, improved interoperability and relationships with allied and partnered nations to maintain a high level of collective readiness throughout 101st CAB, and allow a quick transition to other designated contingency operations.