SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
U.S. Army pilots and crew assigned to the 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment (1-228), Joint Task Force-Bravo completed deck landing qualifications with the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Billings (LCS 15) off the coast of El Salvador, July 15 and 16, 2022.
In all, 14 pilots and 14 crew chiefs accomplished the deck landing qualification. Training was conducted using four Black Hawk UH-60 helicopters.
The training took place approximately 50 miles off the coast of El Salvador and involved five landings by each crew across two-days of training. The deck landing capability is somewhat unique for U.S. Army aircrew who primarily operate over land.
“The capability to be ready when called upon for over-water mission support is critical in Central America,” said U. S. Army Lt Col. Charles Hall, commander, 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment. “The skills and confidence these aviators gained through our Joint relationship with the Navy extend our capability to support our Central American partners in the region we live and operate.”
Deck landing qualifications increase both capability and readiness of the 1-228th to operate in an inherently Joint environment alongside the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and coalition vessels throughout the United States Southern Command area of responsibility. The collective operational capacity of these forces allows for a unified response in the event of a natural disaster on land or an emergency at sea throughout the region.
The aviation regiment is one of three major support components assigned to Joint Task Force-Bravo at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. Completing the deck landing qualification improves support a joint capability not only United States Southern Command but a multitude of partners across the Western Hemisphere.
“Joint service qualification events like this have implications beyond our unit and this region,” said Hall. “Having qualified aviators that could support in the event of a natural disaster is crucial year-round, and it is incumbent upon us as professional aviators, The Winged Warriors, to provide that support when called upon to those in need.”
The 1-228th operates Black Hawk UH-60s, Black Haw HH-60s, and Chinook CH-47s which remain ready to respond when called upon across the United States Southern Command area of responsibility.
Billings is deployed to the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operations to support Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter-illicit drug trafficking missions in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific.
The Black Hawk UH-60 is the U.S. Army’s utility tactical transport helicopter. It provides air assault, general support, aeromedical evacuation, command and control and special operations support to combat, stability and support operations.