AT SEA - Despite differences that are evident on the football field, the Army and Navy are ultimately on the same team. This fact was on full display during the counter-mine exercise known as Spartan Kopis in the Arabian Gulf.
Soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, currently deployed with the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade (Texas Army National Guard) to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, partnered with elements of the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet providing the support of two U.S. Army AH-64D Apache helicopters Dec. 8.
“In Spartan Kopis we’ve had an opportunity to integrate Apaches into the defense of mine counter measure tasks; in a normal mine counter operation mission you would have several surface ships, mostly vulnerable as they are concentrated on clearing mines, and assets that are assigned to provide protection to those ships,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Dale Maxey, commanding officer of the USS Ponce. “Here we have a destroyer assigned to that task, and the Apache gunships have integrated to where they proved an additional response that we would launch and use to defend the more vulnerable ships as they continue mine sweeping operations.”
“Having a quick response asset available like the Apache is very valuable,” Maxey added. “There are never enough armed helicopters available for armed escort and having a gunship that’s available to enter the fight whenever you have a short range enemy pop up at sea is a great resource.”
The Army unit benefits from having the ability to operate off of Navy vessels.
“A big piece for us, with Army helicopters, is the range and the time that we have on station for whatever type of operation that we are conducting,” said Col. Richard P. Adams, commander of the 36th CAB. “With the Navy, they give us platforms over water where we can land, refuel and embark to stay with the ship for a day or more depending on mission requirements.”
“In this case, the Army and Navy complement each other very well,” he added.
This is not the first time that elements of the 36th CAB have partnered with the Navy in the Arabian Gulf.
“During our deployment we’ve worked off of numerous vessels in the Arabian Gulf and we’ve enjoyed our time on their ships learning how they do business and learning what we can do together as service members with the common purpose of security for the region,” said Adams. “Our Soldiers have had the thrill of a lifetime working here in the Middle East with elements of the 5th Fleet.”
Adams said the ability for his unit to conduct these types of operations when they first arrived in theater was strained due to a lack of familiarity with conducting similar operations.
“As we’ve been here for some months we’ve gotten better and better at it,” he said. “Our overarching goal within the services is to make these types of operations routine.”
Maxey said that he envisions operations like this continuing in the future because of how valuable the training and cooperation between the two services has been.
“They are an in theater capability and the fact that we can put them 50 miles at sea and they can expand their reach, why not do that, particularly since the need is there,” he said. “I see it not only continuing but also expanding.”