Maj. Gen. Ivica Olujić, Croatian Director of General Staff, provided welcoming remarks at the event, emphasising the importance of the Multinational Special Aviation Programme Training Centre. He stressed the unique aspect of the facility by enabling aviation crews from across Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, with the support from Poland and the United States, to train together in one location that offers diverse terrain.
"We talked about capabilities, integration for Croatian Special Operations Command and Aviation Special Operations," said Maj. Gen. Olujić. "This was a great opportunity for Croatian Special Operations and Air Force to gain experience, exchange of knowledge, and develop their capabilities."
Col. Tomislav Pušnik, the Director of the Multinational Special Aviation Programme Training Centre, along with Col. Raffaele La Montagna, NATO Special Operations Headquarters Director, Air Development Programme, provided the history of the program, outlined the objectives of the training programme for the Special Operations Air Task Unit and how the nations coming together for training enhances NATO special operations interoperability.
The MSAP instruction and training focuses on using a common approach for joint training missions to ensure the student pilots understand are receiving the necessary skills nations and the Alliance expects.
"The security situation in the world is rapidly changing. In the future, it is hard to predict conventional conflicts, so we should be a step ahead," said Col. Pušnik. "The best way is to organise small units on a tactical level capable of reaching strategic effect. That is why we train here and together with special operations operators."
The afternoon session started with a tactical demonstration displaying the importance of special operations aviators and operators working together to capture a high-value target in two different scenarios. In each scenario, the ground operators required close coordination with the aviators to ensure rapid infiltration and exfiltration. Additionally, the ground operators worked closely with the Joint Terminal Attack Control for close air support.
"The capabilities demonstrated today highlight the importance of combined air and ground training in special operations," said Col. Christopher Cassem, NATO Special Operations Headquarters Senior Representative. "Together, their joint capabilities are ready to respond to any threat, from any direction, at any time."
Planning together is mission-critical for special operations aviators and operators. The Multinational Special Aviation Programme Training Centre enhances the development of special operations aviators by allowing nations to train together, strengthening interoperability, increasing readiness, and strengthening the Alliance's deterrence and defence.
"I'm excited about the future that the MSAP holds, said Maj. Gen. David Tabor, U.S. Special Operations Command Europe Commander. "Not only for Croatia but for the entire Alliance because while this is about building capabilities and capacity to defeat our common adversaries, it is also about reinforcing friendships."
Supported by NATO Special Operations Headquarters in Mons, Belgium and two mentor nations – Poland and the United States, the Multinational Special Aviation Programme Training Centre is available for the entire NATO Community.