IWAKUNI, Japan — As the Army component of America’s Global Response Force, the 82nd Airborne Division has the ability to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours of notification and is arguably one of the most highly trained units in the world. But rigorous training cycles and a high level of professionalism are only a fraction of what the Paratroopers of the “Eighty-deuce” bring to the fight. The largest airborne force in the world, the 82nd can rapidly deploy thousands of troops and enough equipment to sustain them for an extended period of time, making the Division a completely self-sufficient entity.
The paratroopers of the 2/82 conducted a week-long field training exercise, Aug. 21-28, in preparation for the Brigade’s Joint Readiness Training Center rotation in October. The exercise consisted of a forcible entry airborne operation, securing an airfield, and joint combat and stability operations in a simulated foreign country.
Under the cover of darkness on day one Humvees, howitzers, heavy equipment and paratroopers were dropped from a high-performance aircraft and floated silently to the drop zone.
The Brigade’s two infantry battalions, 1st and 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, were tasked with seizing the field landing strip and securing the area from the insurgents there. By pushing back the enemy forces and expanding the Brigade’s area of operations, aircraft were able to land safely on the airfield to bring more Paratroopers and equipment to the fight.
The first mission for the 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 2/82, was a noncombatant evacuation operation, in which the paratroopers evacuated American citizens from the country’s American consulate. The Squadron split its Paratroopers into two maneuver elements, one moving through wooded terrain as the other air assaulted into the area to reach the consulate, where the citizens — role-playing soldiers — were assembled and evacuated by rotary-wing aircraft.
With the entire fighting force present, tactical operations centers assembled and manned, and American citizens safely evacuated, the 2/82 “Falcons” were able to assume a defensive posture. The artillerymen assigned to 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2/82, were key to this phase of the exercise. The howitzers that were assembled on the drop zone were dialed in on the enemy as crewmen conducted defensive live fire exercises, dropping 105mm rounds on their targets.
The Soldiers of 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, supported the Falcons for the exercise, initially by repairing and maintaining the landing strip, said engineer liaison officer, Lt. Matt Nicholes. With multiple large construction vehicles, they also assisted the battalions by fortifying their survivability positions and building structures to slow or stop the maneuvers of enemy vehicles.
The medical personnel assigned to 407th Brigade Support Battalion, 2/82, also supported the fight by providing medical aid to mock casualties as well as real-world wounded. Five simulated mass casualty incidents kept medics on their toes during the exercise. “Wounded” Paratroopers would receive basic medical care from their comrades on the scene, and were then transported to the level 2 aid station for further treatment.
A level 2 aid station has some of the same capabilities as a hospital, but life, limb or eyesight injuries were airlifted to a different location to be treated by a physician’s assistant, said Spc. Anthony Herter, a healthcare technician assigned to C Co., 407th BSB. Eighty mock casualties were treated during the exercise, said Herter, a native of Mt. Zion, Ill. About 30 actual injuries were also treated through the course of the week, ranging from poison ivy to minor lacerations and ankle sprains.
In addition to combat and combat support missions, a special team of Paratroopers traveled from village to village to make contacts with the citizens to gather information on essential services they were lacking and gain their trust and support.
As a brigade combat team, the 2/82 is able to deploy independently and sustain itself for an extended period of time. This capability along with the means to rapidly deploy thousands of troops and equipment to assault an objective from the air makes the Falcon Brigade a force to be reckoned with. Falcon Brigade Paratroopers constantly train to be prepared to conduct any mission, anywhere in the world, on short notice.