FORWARD OPERATING BASE ELIJAH, Afghanistan --
U.S. and U.K. aircraft flew International Security Assistance Force officials here Sept. 29 to discuss the construction plans of Route 611.
This route will connect Sangin to Route 1, currently the only major highway in Afghanistan.
A U.K. Mk4 Sea King carrying the ISAF officials was escorted by two U.S. light attack helicopters, a UH-1Y Huey and an AH-1W Cobra; all of the aircraft serve under the command of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).
“ISAF is here to support the locals,” said U.K. Lt. David Tindall, an Australian Sea King pilot with the Royal Navy. “They are building the road for the local nationals to improve their freedom of movement. We are here to support that mission.”
The U.S. and U.K. pilots came together to plan for this critical mission.
“It was nice to meet them face-to-face to work kinks out,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Bryan Clausen, a Huey pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, 3rd MAW (Fwd). “We don’t always get face-to-face briefs; it is usually a phone call because of time constraints.”
Although integrated under 3rd MAW (Fwd), whose headquarters is based out of Camp Leatherneck, some of the U.K. aviation planners are operating out of Camp Bastion, a few miles away.
Pilots from all three aircraft attended the brief to discuss how in-flight decisions and radio communications would be made in order to prevent confusion during the missions. For these pilots, the communication barrier comes from using different code words. For example, the Huey and Cobra pilots normally use certain code words for a safe landing zone that are different from what the Sea King pilots use.
Even though the pilots may speak in “different languages,” the Queen’s English versus the American version, they are seamlessly integrating and sharing missions such as the planning of the Route 611 development. Under 3rd MAW (Fwd), the U.S. and U.K. Marines and sailors have become an integrated coalition force, overcoming these minor obstacles and paving the way for future successes.
Assets are distributed to the various missions across the region, the U.S. and U.K. planners have to come up with the most viable solution. It’s becoming more common to see U.S. and U.K. aircraft fight alongside each other across Helmand province.
“We work as a team, we share the effort,” said Tindall, who is originally from Nowra, Australia.“For this mission, we had the lift aircraft available and they had the overwatch aircraft available.”
The integration proved a valuable tool for another mission as ISAF flew to check on the Route 611 construction. Coalition forces continue to work together and the Afghan people will soon see the results of their teamwork when the major road project is complete.