Story and photo by Maj. Robert Fellingham
SZOLNOK, Hungary — 12th Combat Aviation Brigade pilots had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly an Mi-24 Hind helicopter with Hungarian Defense Force pilots at Szolnok Air Base, Hungary.
U.S. Army pilots from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, part of 12th CAB, and the Hungarian Defense Force 86th Szolnok Helicopter Base shared their flying experience through joint orientation flights in U.S. AH-64 Apache and Hungarian Mi-24 Hind helicopters, during Exercise Saber Guardian 21, part of DEFENDER-Europe 21, on June 3, 2021.
“This kind of training is important to building the alliance, showing that trust in each other by sharing the cockpit,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Matthew Cole, the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment commander.
“We are creating a shared understanding of how we operate, our tactics, techniques and procedures.”
Three Hungarian Defense Force pilots, including Brig. Gen. József Koller, the 86th Helicopter Base Garrison Commander, flew the front gunner’s seat in a 12th CAB Apache in the morning with instructor pilot U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joseph Lorman.
A mid-day break included joint capabilities briefs by both NATO Allies on their helicopters and their tactical employment.
In the afternoon, three U.S Army pilots, including Lt. Col. Cole, flew the front gunner’s seat in a Hungarian Mi-24 Hind with instructor pilot HDF Col. Zoltán Rolukó.
When asked about his anticipation before the flight, Lt. Col. Cole said, “I’m absolutely excited to fly the Hind; I think we’re all super pumped to experience that machine!”
About two dozen 12th CAB Apache pilots also took the opportunity to fly in the passenger compartment of the Mi-24 Hind throughout the day.
“Our Hungarian counterparts here today have all deployed to Afghanistan, they’ve worked with Americans before so our TTPs are already very similar from working together over there so, the most important aspect of this cross-training is continuing to build our relationships,” said Cole.
“My HDF counterpart brought it up and we’ve already discussed coming back out and doing this again; I think we are both excited to continue building on what we’ve accomplished here this month.”
DEFENDER-Europe 21 is a large-scale U.S. Army-led exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between the U.S., NATO allies and partner militaries. This year, more than 28,000 multinational forces from 26 nations will conduct nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in over a dozen countries from the Baltics to the strategically important Balkans and Black Sea Region.
To follow the latest news and for information about DEFENDER-Europe 21, visit www.EuropeAfrica.army.mil/DefenderEurope.