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Strengthening NATO Partner Alliances
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan
March 21, 2022

U.S. Air Force pararescuemen assigned to the 57th Rescue Squadron and HH-60G Pave Hawks and crew assigned to the 56th RQS, both from Aviano Air Base, Italy, alongside Royal Marines Commando Mobile Air Operations team with Commando Helicopter Force performed joint NATO training with the 53rd Commando Battalion Romanian special forces in March 2022.

By combining knowledge and experience from two NATO partners, the teams worked together to teach proper helicopter landing zone procedures to Romanian special forces.

“It's beneficial for them to know because it could be one of those friction points in an operation,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Mount, 57th RQS combat rescue officer. “They're going to operate on the ground and have an air component to it, so working out the friction points of landing, offloading a helicopter, moving around on an area that has spinning rotor blades and heavy machinery right there.”

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Alexander Mount, 57th Rescue Squadron combat rescue officer, center, speaks with the 51st Commando Battalion Romanian special forces in Romania, March, 9, 2022. Mount assisted the Royal Marines Commando Mobile Air Operations team in teaching safe operations for loading and unloading an HH-60G Pave Hawk assigned to the 56th RQS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan)
U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Alexander Mount, 57th Rescue Squadron combat rescue officer, center, speaks with the 51st Commando Battalion Romanian special forces in Romania, March, 9, 2022. Mount assisted the Royal Marines Commando Mobile Air Operations team in teaching safe operations for loading and unloading an HH-60G Pave Hawk assigned to the 56th RQS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan)

They were also briefed on how to communicate landing hazards the helicopter might encounter on approach. Romanian special forces would then practice running to the helicopter for extraction and offloading techniques.

“They were practicing getting on and off the helicopter as well as talking to us over the radio to call us in for extraction if they needed it.” said Capt. Cassie McPeek, 56th RQS lead aircraft co-pilot.

The 56th RQS and the 57th RQS work directly with NATO partners to establish better connections and a solid foundation.

“It's a pretty uncertain time right now,” said Lt. Col. Adam Hawkins, 56th RQS director of operations. “If ever there's a time to have a NATO alliance solid and together, it's right now. What we are doing is a direct interaction with our partners as close as we can get.

The NATO alliance allows the cumulative knowledge of other forces to be freely shared, opening the door to different experiences and learning opportunities.

The 51st Commando Battalion Romanian Special Forces offload an HH-60G Pave Hawk assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron in Romania, March 9, 2022. The 57th RQS and the 56th RQS alongside the Royal Marines Commando Mobile Air Operations team with Commando Helicopter Force provided training on how to safely operate around a helicopter to the 51st Commando Battalion Romanian Special Forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan)
The 51st Commando Battalion Romanian Special Forces offload an HH-60G Pave Hawk assigned to the 56th Rescue Squadron in Romania, March 9, 2022. The 57th RQS and the 56th RQS alongside the Royal Marines Commando Mobile Air Operations team with Commando Helicopter Force provided training on how to safely operate around a helicopter to the 51st Commando Battalion Romanian Special Forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan)

“It just shows how interoperable we are with our NATO partners,” said Mount. “And how some of the experiences can be shared, we have slightly different experiences than the British forces do and different from the Romanians. To be able to integrate all of that together is critical.”

McPeek explains how great it is to see three different NATO countries working together to streamline processes, understand different techniques and share experiences for others to learn. Along with that, McPeek expressed how important it is to have a solid foundation in our own tactics and techniques but to also be open minded and communicate in order to get the job done.

“It was really cool to get to integrate with NATO partners,” said McPeek.

“Being able to see all that we do with our NATO partners translate up, where even if we’re in a major conflict and we have to do it in the heat of the moment we're going to make it work,” said Mount. “Because even in the simple moments we can make it work”

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