The Army’s 101st Airborne teamed up with Greek special operators for a first-of-its-kind island-assault exercise

  • This month, soldiers from the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) worked with Hellenic Armed Forces, to execute Eddie’s Odyssey, a first-of-its-kind training mission in the Aegean Sea.
  • During the exercise, US helicopters supported Greek special operations forces while they operated on objectives only accessible by traversing long distances over water.
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STEFANOVIKEIO, Greece – The US Army’s 1st Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), together with Hellenic Armed Forces, executed Eddie’s Odyssey, a first of its kind, joint training mission on Velopoula Island and over the Aegean Sea, January 13-14.

The exercise, named after Ugly Eddie, the battalion mascot, consisted of US AH-64E Apaches, UH-60M and HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters working together with Hellenic 1st Aviation Brigade Apaches and CH-47D Chinook helicopters.

The joint training encompassed transporting troops, aerial coverage operations and providing medical evacuation capabilities to Greek special operations forces (SOF), while they operated on objectives only accessible by traversing long distances over water.

Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopter

Three US Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters over Velopoula Island in the Aegean Sea, January 14, 2021.
US Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma

“This exercise was really built from the ground up,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Marston, 1st battalion commander. “We had some time on our calendar and at the company level there were folks who were interested in doing over-water training and some live-fire exercises. Working with the Greeks, we were able to plan Eddie’s Odyssey, an air-assault and deliberate attack exercise.”

A US Black Hawk and Hellenic Chinook worked together to transport troops to the remote island in two phases.

The Black Hawk, escorted by a US Apache, touched down on the island first with a small team that identified and set up a landing zone for the larger Chinook. They simultaneously set up a laser targeting system that identified the objective that the Apaches were tasked to destroy.

After the Chinook dropped off the rest of the ground forces, US Apaches worked together to engage and destroy the target, identified by the SOF team, using 30 mm chain guns and 2.75-inch rockets. When they needed to return to base, a team of Hellenic Apaches relieved their US counterparts and continued the assault.

Army UH-60M Black Hawk

A US Army UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter participates in Eddie’s Odyssey in the Aegean Sea, January 14, 2021.
US Army National Guard/Sgt. Renee Seruntine

“These training exercises give the opportunity to both sides to exchange knowledge and experiences that can take place in various conditions,” said a Greek SOF second lieutenant. “The keys to a mission rely on detailed planning, standard operation procedure and training. This event between Greek SOF and US aerial platforms enhances the interoperability between those NATO members.”

The two partner forces also used the training opportunity to practice their medical evacuation capabilities off of the island.

In order to fly over the Aegean Sea and execute Eddie’s Odyssey, pilots and flight crews from the 101st had to conduct specialized refresher training on how to react if a helicopter unexpectedly goes down in the water.

This “dunker training,” provided by the Hellenic Navy partners, was another first-time training opportunity spearheaded by 1-101. It used a large indoor pool and equipment that simulates an aircraft crash on the water.

“One of the great things about being here in Greece is that our Hellenic partners have a vast experience with over water flight ,” said Marston.

Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopter

US Army AH-64E attack helicopters fire 2.75-inch rockets at a target in the Aegean Sea, January 14, 2021.
US Army National Guard/Staff Sgt. Garrett L. Dipuma

“Interoperability wise, we are not only teaching them our gold book standards and how we do air assault planning and deliberate attacks, we are also learning a tremendous amount from our 1st Aviation Brigade Hellenic partners, both from their attack helicopters and their Chinooks,” said Marston. “Through that, we get after not only how we do over water flight, but now we know how to plan together, how to establish command and control together, and come up with tactics we wouldn’t necessarily think of if we were just training at home.”

“Building these types of training opportunities that strengthen our partnership and operational teamwork with our allies is what the 101st is all about,” said Col. Travis Habhab, commander of the 101st CAB. “Training shoulder to shoulder with our NATO Allies is one of the key factors that make us so effective working in environments comprised of joint, international forces.”

The mission helps to strengthen readiness and lethality through collective training across multinational allies and partners, improved interoperability and relationships with allied and partnered nations to maintain a high level of collective readiness throughout 101st CAB, and allow a quick transition to other designated contingency operations.

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