Navy Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5, assigned to the aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, conducted inland training in Albania recently.
The rare training experience in Bizë, Albania, provided the helicopter squadron with the opportunity to conduct mountain flying, low-level tactical flying, off-airport landing, and multi-unit coordinated exercises, according to the service.
“The Bizë range is ideally suited for overland training, and the user-friendly airspace allows robust air wing integration,” said Cmdr. Erik Gustafson, commanding officer of HSC 5, in a Navy news release. “The mountainous approach and wide open training area allows our team practice in multiple competencies in a single visit.”
The helicopter squadron also paired up with units from Albania to conduct training in unfamiliar environments, aimed at fostering interoperability between NATO allies. The Bush’s “unique position” in the 6th Fleet’s area of operations during deployment allowed the nations to conduct the raining from Jan. 15 to 17, the service said.
“The geography of Bizë poses unique challenges designed to strengthen and improve the skillset of units training within it, and we’re happy to work with Albania to exercise tactical air capabilities,” Lt. Cmdr. Steve Berres, a pilot from HSC 5, said in the news release. “Opportunities to train and expand our capabilities are key to the success of our individual units and our integration within NATO.”
The helicopter squadron primarily tackles search-and-rescue operations for fixed-wing flight operations from the Bush, which deployed from Naval Station Norfolk in August for its first deployment since 2017 after completing a 30-month maintenance period.
Its carrier strike group includes the guided-missile destroyers Nitze, Truxtun, Farragut and Delbert D. Black, the guided-missile cruiser Leyte Gulf, and Carrier Air Wing 7.
The carrier concluded exercise Juniper Oak in the Mediterranean last week — the largest joint drill with Israel to date.