CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Sailors assigned to the U.S. Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, Detachment 6, the “Archangels,” have spent the past few weeks conducting training and maintenance with their Army aviator counterparts here during an extended visit.
“[Having the Sailors here] has definitely fostered a great U.S. Army-U.S. Navy relationship, and from my point of view, I couldn’t be happier with their time here and how they’ve been as guests,” said Capt. Daniel Barbella, commander of Company A, U.S. Army Japan Aviation Battalion, the battalion’s flight company.
“They’re going to be leaving soon, and we’ve already continued conversation about training in the future,” Barbella said May 22.
The Archangels stayed at Camp Zama in support of larger Navy objectives that have taken the forefront at the nearby Naval Air Facility Atsugi, the unit’s deployed home, said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan “Flanders” Van Loo, officer in charge of HSC-25.6, a detachment of the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25, “Island Knights,” stationed in Guam.
Col. Thomas Matelski, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, and his team “rolled out the red carpet” to his team in their support of their stay, Van Loo said, and that has helped them have a smooth transition from sea to shore.
“Having spent the last four months out to sea, it is a literal breath of fresh air to be back on the Kanto Plain and experiencing a unique opportunity such as this,” Van Loo said.
Cmdr. Christopher Carreon, commanding officer of the HSC-25, thanked Matelski and his team for the opportunity to work out of Camp Zama and train with the Army.
“I absolutely love that our detachment was afforded the opportunity to work with our Army counterparts,” Carreon said. “HSC-25 is located on Guam, where we can’t often find outside units to work and train with. I, as a pilot and commanding officer, don’t want the first time we work together to be on the battlefield.”
Barbella described how the aviators took advantage of the situation to cross-train each other.
For example, Navy aviators have talked to Army aviators about how to move external loads onto a ship, while the Army aviators have extended the Navy aviators’ knowledge of Air Assault operations.
The two teams also demonstrated joint interoperability when they conducted a flight together, Barbella said. The Army team flew three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, and the Navy team flew three MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters.
“They were extremely easy to work with,” Barbella said.
The Sailors and Soldiers were methodical in doing their air crew brief together, holding a map rehearsal, and taking each step simply so they could each see how the other team works, Barbella said.
They paid special attention to the differences so when they work together in the future there are not as many surprises in how they talk, communicate and fly, Barbella said.
“It’s great having them here,” Barbella said. “I would love for them to come back. I’m sure we’ll work together soon.”
Carreon said Army aviators stationed in the Pacific can particularly benefit from Navy training because if there were a personnel recovery situation from one of the Navy’s aircraft carriers or amphibious assault ships, cross-training could benefit both organizations.
“Unfortunately, our helicopters don’t have the range of our fixed-winged jets, so there are scenarios where a Navy helicopter won’t be able to pick up a downed aviator,” Carreon said. “In that situation, an Army ‘helo’ might be the closest helicopter in theater.”
Working together and having good lines of communication beforehand will increase the likelihood of
saving a pilot in that situation, Carreon said.
Van Loo said his team definitely enjoyed the opportunity to work with the Army.
“Regrettably, we are only four miles away as the crow flies, and yet rarely spend any time working with the Army, so this is an excellent occasion for our integration,” Van Loo said, referring to the unit’s deployed location at Atsugi.
Before the Navy team left, they planned to work together and assist Camp Zama’s 35th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion with external load operations at Sagami General Depot, Barbella said.
“We’ve invited the Navy, a few of their crew chiefs, so they can listen to the calls that we’re making and see how we do that and how we mitigate risk,” Barbella said. “[We will] talk through everything and make sure everything is safe and continue that methodical approach.”
Throughout the training, Barbella said, organizers have made sure to incorporate COVID-19 safety measures, such as wearing masks and assuring social distancing by holding training in a few rooms to limit the number of people per room.
Van Loo said the Navy looks forward to working with their Army counterparts again.
“We will likely remain on Camp Zama no later than the end of the month; however, during that time we are focusing on conducting maintenance on our aircraft as available while integrating with U.S. Army Japan Aviation Battalion for training and joint operations—setting the theater for combined operations and future development in this partnership,” Van Loo said.
Carreon said he would also like to see Army and Navy aviators work together more often.
Carreon said he worked with the Army in 2007 when the HSC-25 filled in as the Naval Air Ambulance Detachment in Camp Buerhing, Kuwait, as the sole medical evacuation support for Kuwait and Southern Iraq.
The organizations trained together on multiple occasions on search and rescue for over-water missions and personnel recovery over the desert, Carreon said, and they learned a lot from one another, but unfortunately, that was the only time in his career he got to work with them.
“I believe training together on a more routine basis will only make us stronger,” Carreon said.
Barbella wholeheartedly agrees.
Unlike the Army’s dark green Black Hawks, the Navy has theirs painted blue, and Barbella said that at first, the sight on the airfield was a little odd.
“It’s a small airfield,” Barbella said. “We don’t typically have guest aircraft here for an extended period of time, but they’re super easy to work with, so we share resources … It was weird at first. Now it’s not weird anymore, and I welcome them to come back whenever they get a chance.”