When the Latvian Air Force recently purchased new UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, the call went out for a potential UH-60 maintenance training location in the United States. The Michigan Army National Guard’s (MIARNG) Company B, 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment was chosen in part due to the long-standing partnership Michigan has cultivated with Latvia through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP). The first maintenance professional coming to Michigan, Latvian Air Force Capt. Raimonds Lug??ins will serve as a test run to see how the program will grow in the future.
“The UH-60 is a new helicopter for the Latvian Air Force. Since it is a new system, we don’t know about it. Getting insight on maintenance, flying, and operation from experienced guys is a good thing,” said Lug??ins.
“When we were asked if we could provide training and expertise to the Latvian Air Force, we reviewed their needs and came back with a yes. As of right now we plan on training on-the-ground maintainers and crew chiefs in the back of aircraft,” said U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Craig Fleser, 147th Aviation Regiment special projects officer.
The UH-60 is a new helicopter for the Latvian Air Force. Since it is a new system, we don’t know about it. Getting insight on maintenance, flying, and operation from experienced guys is a good thing. Before arriving in Michigan, Lug??ins spent 10 weeks learning UH-60 repair basics at Eastern ARNG Aviation Training Site in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. Lug??ins began his 4-month-long on-the-job training on Nov. 24. Upon completion, he will have earned various certifications and be ready to attend the Aviation Maintenance Officer Course (AMOC) in Ft. Rucker, Alabama. The Latvian Air Force’s primary helicopter is the Mi-17 Hip, but they are scheduled to acquire four UH-60s in 2022.
Once the program is fully functional, the Black Hawks will help improve U.S interoperability with Latvia. It will also help increase NATO’s capability in the Baltic region to provide troop lift, border security, anti-terrorist, medical evacuation, search and rescue, and combat support. The Latvian National Armed Forces already have strong ties with the Michigan National Guard (MING) thanks to the partnership that began in 1993. Lug??ins said this relationship means MING personnel have been assisting Latvia every step of the way with acquiring the UH-60s. The size and scope of this initiative show how the SPP is more than just traveling between two countries. It serves as an important tool for global security and executing our nation’s National Defense Strategy.