Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Task Force Keystone Supports Joint Special Forces Training

Four Black Hawk helicopters from the Pennsylvania National Guard's Company B, 1st Battalion, 150th Aviation Regiment, prepare to land during a joint special operations forces training exercise Oct. 2 in Iraq.

28th Combat Aviation Brigade
Story by Sgt. Matthew Jones

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – Members of Company B, 1st Battalion, 150th Aviation Regiment, assisted U.S. and Iraqi special operations forces in a joint training exercise Oct. 2.

This was the third in a series of three exercises involving the aviators from Task Force Keystone.

The training mission started as a real mission would, with a thorough briefing. The aviators and crew reviewed the landing zone, the aircraft's landing direction, a timeline, landing formation, maps, routes and contingency plans.

First Lt. Thomas Kivlen, platoon leader in Co. B from Plainsboro, N.J., stressed the importance of the training.

"The stuff we are doing here directly relates to what those Soldiers may have to do in the future," said Kivlen. "This will directly help prepare for future missions and assaults."

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Danielle Wolak of Reading, Pa., one of several pilots who participated in the training mission, said the training was especially gratifying for her.

"I was here in 2003 when everything was starting and now I'm here near the very end," said Wolak, a Pennsylvania National Guard Soldier. "It's nice to know that we're helping them take back their country and we're training them for what they're going to need to do when we're gone."

Warrant Officer Kyle Braun, a Pennsylvania National Guard member who actually calls Indianapolis home, echoed his fellow pilot's sentiments.

"For future operations, they can do this on their own," said Braun, referring to the Iraqi forces. "When we leave, they should be able to do their own air assaults and support their own operations."

The pilots agreed the transition process is already well underway. According to Wolak, her unit has operated with ISF.

"We do everything hand-in-hand with the Iraqis," said Wolak. "Everything is in coordination with [Iraqi army and Iraqi police], so they know what is going on," she said.

"Today's goal was to go out and get the Iraqi special [operations] forces trained and return safely," Wolak concluded. "And we completed that goal."