RIGA, Latvia --- U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, delivered by Air Mobility Command C-5M Super Galaxies, arrived here March 1, 2017 in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Task Force Phoenix, led by the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment, signifies the first rotational combat aviation brigade deployed to provide a persistent presence in eastern Europe.
“We are thrilled to welcome so many excellent American soldiers, who will serve as members of the continuing U.S. aviation presence deployed to NATO’s eastern flank in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” said Nancy Bikoff Pettit, the U.S. Ambassador to Latvia, during a press event at Riga International Airport.
In addition to the U.S. ambassador, U.S. and Latvian military leadership attended the arrival and spoke to local journalists about the event. Brig. Gen. Ivo Mogiļnijs, the commander of the Joint Headquarters of the Latvian National Armed Forces, Maj. Gen. Timothy Zadalis, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa vice commander, and Brig. Gen. Timothy Daugherty, the U.S. Army Europe deputy chief of operations, were in attendance to observe the arrival.
In total, 85 aircraft, including CH-47 Chinooks, UH-60 Black Hawks, AH-64 Apaches, medical evacuation helicopters, as well as 2,200 Soldiers, comprise the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade deployment throughout the European theater.
Zadalis noted the historic nature of the joint venture with this year marking the 70th anniversary of a U.S. Air Force presence in Europe.
“I see nothing but an incredibly bright future for U.S. and Latvian relations because of how closely our two countries work together,” Zadalis said. “Not only the U.S. and Latvia, but Latvia within the NATO construct as well. The things Latvia holds dear, are the same things we hold dear: democracy and freedom for our people. That is what will keep this relationship strong.”
Zadalis added that there was also a significant training aspect to the U.S. and Latvian militaries working together.
“The U.S. and Latvia do a lot of training and a lot of planning and a lot of exercises together,” he said. “It’s where we get to know each other. There is a big emphasis on joint training. When we face a crisis, you don’t want to be learning then, you want to have already practiced and trained together, and that is what we did here.”
USAFE and AMC directly support the joint and multi-national warfighting environment with air superiority, direct air operations, global air transportation and capabilities that are essential to supporting the warfighters on the ground.
One of the largest aircraft in the world, and the largest lifter in the Air Force inventory, the AMC C-5M provided the necessary capabilities required to bring the Black Hawks to Latvia. Capable of carrying three Black Hawk helicopters, two M1A Abrams tanks or 250,000 pounds of relief supplies, the Galaxy is uniquely equipped to carry bulky combat equipment and oversized cargo in a rapid global environment.
“It’s a tremendous aircraft and it’s crewed by the brightest and smartest young men and women our country has to offer,” Zadalis said. “The beautiful thing about the C-5M is that one day you could deliver combat airpower … and the next day you could be delivering humanitarian airlift around the world. It’s part of what we do. It’s part of our commitment to Europe, it’s part of our commitment to NATO, and it’s part of our commitment to freedom.”
Pettit echoed the general’s praise to the professionalism of the Airmen and Soldiers, and added that the U.S. looks forward to continue training with the Latvians.
“This year, thousands of U.S. Soldiers will rotate through Latvia to participate in exercises and trainings, building close ties with their Latvian counterparts,” Pettit said. “You can be assured that they – like all of us here – are committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with our Latvian allies to protect the independence, sovereignty, and security of Latvia.”