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Navy trains with Kadena, sister service units

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jeff Loftin
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
A Naval Air Facility Atsugi-based helicopter squadron's temporary duty here is helping to improve readiness for the 18th Wing and sister service units. 

Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 14 came to Okinawa recently to conduct training not available at sea or its home station. In the process they are helping prepare Kadena-based units to operate more effectively in a joint environment. 

HS-14 is conducting combat search and rescue operations with the 33rd and 31st Rescue Squadrons, as well as training with the 320th Special Tactics Squadron. They are also conducting paradrops and fast rope training with the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) 1st Battalion, from Torii Station. 

"It's not everyday we get to work with helicopters," said Maj. Steve Taylor, 1-1 SFG (A) operations officer. "It is a core task for the special forces group so it has been nice to have them here. For us it's a lot easier to work with helicopters than fixed-wing aircraft. Helicopters can do what we call elevators, picking up soldiers at the drop zone, dropping them and coming back for more. This allows instant feedback to the jumper and in some cases provides Soldiers multiple jumps in one day." 

Although the training is helping units here, its main purpose was to maintain sailor readiness. 

"This is very important for us because there are no weapons training ranges at Atsugi," said Cmdr. Chris Rodeman, HS-14 commanding officer. "In mainland Japan we can't fire our big weapons. We train with Hellfire missiles for anti-small-boat operations, and Mark 46 torpedoes for antisubmarine operations. ... Our primary training objective when we come down here is to do our annual requalification with those two weapons." 

The unit was able to conduct torpedo and missile training at the beginning of the week. 

The squadron is also getting some valuable training in other areas such as combat search and rescue and naval special warfare support. 

"The 33rd is really good at that mission because it's their primary mission," said Commander Rodeman. "It's a great chance for us to come down and see how they do things and kind of refine the way we do it. The same goes for the PJs. They focus on a mission we only get a little time to work on, so it's a great chance to improve on what we do." 

Several CSAR events were planned to help the two units get used to working together.
"A lot of our techniques and procedures are the same as the Air Force, but there are some subtle variations," said Lt. Cmdr. Brian Miller, HS-14 detachment officer in charge. "It's good to get with them and work those out." 

Since the squadron spends more than six months a year at sea, the training is even more important. 

"A lot of that training can't be accomplished at sea on the Kittyhawk, and that's why it is so vitally important we come down here once a year and do this training," said Commander Rodeman. 

The training here includes flying with night-vision goggles to landing zones in the northern training area. 

"The northern training area is the best overland NVG training environment I've ever seen," he said. 

Other training events included both static line and high-altitude-low-opening jumps for the 1-1 SFG (A). 

"I flew this morning with the 1-1," said Lt. Tom Van Hoozer, HS-14 Detachment operations officer, Monday. "We did some day static line paradrops. The mission went great. We both learned a lot from each other. The Army guys fly in Blackhawks most of the time and the Seahawk is a little different. They had to adjust their procedures. We had to adjust our procedures, which was good because we were learning from each other and combining tactics. 

"This was my first static drop, and to be with a different service and their operators was a real good learning experience for me," he said. 

In the end the experience benefited both Okinawa-based units and HS-14. 

"This was great opportunity for the two squadrons to work together and learn how each other operates," said Lt. Col. Mike Trumpfheller, 33rd Rescue Squadron commander. "We find that we do things more a like than we realized. We use similar techniques and tactical employment methods. [The training] prepares us for any joint contingency operations where we may work together."