The U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), together with Greek Special Operations forces of the Hellenic Armed Forces, executed Eddie’s Odyssey, a first of its kind, joint training mission on Velopoula Island and over the Aegean Sea, on January 13-14.

The exercise, named after Ugly Eddie the battalion’s mascot, consisted of U.S. 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 troop transports, aerial coverage operations, and the provision of 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 U.S. Army AH-64E Apache attack helicopters over Velopoula Island in the Aegean Sea, January 14, 2021. (U.S. 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 U.S. Black Hawk and Hellenic Chinook worked together to transport troops to the remote island in two phases.

The Black Hawk, escorted by a U.S. 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, U.S. 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 U.S. counterparts and continued the assault.

Army UH-60M Black Hawk
A U.S. Army UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter participates in Eddie’s Odyssey in the Aegean Sea, January 14, 2021. (U.S. 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 U.S. aerial platforms enhances the interoperability between those NATO members.”