NOVO SELO TRAINING AREA, Bulgaria --- The image that comes to mind when picturing one of U.S. Army's aviation brigades is one inevitably filled with helicopters. Indeed, most primary missions focus on these assets in the air and their problem-solving capabilities on the battlefield, but what is often overlooked, is the myriad of ground personnel and equipment it takes to successfully manage such a complex tool in the Army's arsenal.
As part of U.S. Army Europe's Atlantic Resolve mission, one of the longest and largest known convoys undertaken by an aviation brigade was successfully executed.
10th Combat Aviation Brigade completed a ground convoy totaling almost 1200 miles from Germany to Bulgaria on June 19 through July 1 in preparation for exercise Saber Guardian in the Black Sea region.
"There was a real sense of pride when we arrived in Bulgaria after five days of being on the road," Capt. Jeremy Hunter, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. "The main mission of the convoy was to get to Novo Selo Training Area and to get here safely. We accomplished that mission."
With over 100 pieces of rolling stock and approximately 250 Soldiers embarking on the journey that crossed through five European countries, safety was naturally a point of focus. Prior to leaving, Soldiers were certified to drive in Europe, practiced driving on local roadways, and performed maintenance on all vehicles. The convoys drove primarily at nighttime to avoid complex traffic situations and each vehicle carried a turn-by-turn guide to all of the 20 refuel-on-the-move (ROM) sites along the way.
Communication between each vehicle was vital to keeping the convoy together, accurate reporting of locations, and to coordinate requests, such as stopping for Soldiers to stretch their legs or refuel.
"Communication is one of the most important things in a convoy because if you can't talk to each other and something unexpected happens, everyone needs to be aware and able to react," said Spc. Mitchell Mendez, a signals support specialist with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. "Using my MOS to help setup and keep those communications up and running was really rewarding."
The convoy saw Soldiers from a wide array of military occupation specialties come together to ensure that the massive undertaking was a success. In doing so, they were able to accomplish a rare feat for an aviation brigade and get an excellent training opportunity along the way.
"Five days of convoying gave my Soldiers lots of training on how to communicate over the radio, navigate safely through foreign countries, and work as a team to drive the mission forward," said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Zavala, a frequency manager with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. "This kind of experience sticks with you for a long time."
The brigade is currently spread out over Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria for exercise Saber Guardian 17 in the Black Sea region. This U.S. Army Europe-led annual exercise involves 25,000 service members from over 20 NATO Allies. The premiere training event builds readiness and improves interoperability under a unified command, executing a full range of military missions to support security and stability of the Black Sea region.