Ploce, Croatia - Since 1997, from the arrival of the first detachment,
11 Spanish helicopter units have served in SFOR. Now, it is the turn
for SPAHEL XII.
This detachment is comprised of 25 people; helicopter pilots, mechanics
and crewmen of the helicopters and support personnel on the ground.
part of the Light Army Aviation Battalion (BATALAT) in Ploce, they provide
two helicopters. According to Capt. Jose Luis Gonzalez Valdivielso,
the operations officer, the current model HU-1H would be replaced for
the new HU-21 "Cougar" very soon.
The chief of the Spanish detachment is Maj. Jose Francisco Mares Solaz,
a helicopter pilot. He serves in one of the six helicopter battalions
in Spain. He is based in the Canary Islands like most of the people
in this detachment. The rest of them belong to the other units of the
Spanish Light Army Aviation, "Fuerzas Aeromóviles del Ejército
de Tierra" (FAMET).
to Mares, "Flying together with helicopters of other countries
means gaining a great experience because you must know different procedures
and materials. Sometimes, French, German, Italian and Spanish helicopters
take part in missions all together."
They carry out missions to support MND Southeast, basically tactical
and logistic transport and medical evacuations. Also they are ready
to protect SFOR and, if required, International Organisations and civilian
population. Their tasks include day and night training, which means
they are ready to act at any time and in all conditions.
their relations on ground, "We use the French language, but English
language to fly. Language is not an inconvenience to maintain excellent
relationship in BATALAT," explained Mares.
Lt. Juan Carlos Ruiz Gonzalez is a helicopter pilot in Ploce.
"The thing I really like is the flight. Landscapes are very beautiful
in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Flight is quite interesting and demanding
due to the difficult mountains and weather in this area," said
One of the three mechanics of the helicopters, Sgt. Jaime Muelas Delgado,
thinks their work is important and continuous, sometimes during day
and night, because "helicopters require constant maintenance to
be ready to fly anytime."
a unit like this also needs a lot of people working on the ground supporting
the air operations. That is the case for Pvt. Juan Luis Delgado Vargas
who works supporting the refuelling operations on ground by means of
"It is essential the refuelling is carried out in the most secure
way to avoid any accident," he explained.
Nations of SFOR: Spain