Being “America’s Guard of Honor” isn’t all about ceremonial perfection for the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division. The reality is that it requires long hours of field training so the division can be ready to deploy troops in a matter of hours to support contingency operations where operations centers are not yet established.
This standard holds true throughout the division, including the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, which relies on tactical operation centers to track aircraft and activity throughout the battlefield and airspace.
The 2nd Aviation Assault Battalion, 82nd CAB troopers trained at ground level, Aug. 19 through 21, to set up an aviation tactical operation center at Fort Bragg’s Owen Landing Zone.
Maj. Khirsten Schwenn, operations officer, 2nd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt. (Assault), lead the way during the training exercise and said she feels this type of training is crucial to the mission as the 82nd Airborne Division moves into a new mission as the U.S. global response force.
“A lot of our troopers only have a memory of the past 10 years and falling in on hard stands or pre-existing buildings that already have the required essentials to complete a mission,” Schwenn said. “And for some of our senior leaders, it has been a very long time since we have exercised these skills.”
As more troops pull out of Afghanistan and return home, Soldiers will need to prepare for operations where they may not have all the essentials already set up to sustain their mission.
“We are looking forward to supporting the global response force, and we need to be able to go into and fight from a more austere environment,” Schwen said. “This exercise is designed to teach our troopers what it is like to set up a TOC from the ground up.”
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Benjamin Sheren, operations chief, 2nd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt. (Assault), was in charge of setting up various training lanes for the four-day event.
“Over the next few days, our troopers will participate in lanes that teach them how to react, resist and escape all while finding a way to communicate with this forward operating base,” Sheren said. “We will simulate some ‘fallen angels’ or downed aircraft and the troopers will have to make contact by radio to us. At the same time, we have troopers playing the enemy in order to make the situation more realistic.”
In order for a unit to be successful in the field environment, the tactical operations center must be ready to support Soldiers. This support comes in all forms to include the basics such as food rations, fuel provisions and communications.
“I am a fueler for the battalion and normally deal with the helicopters, but I feel like this is a good experience and great practice for a real-world situation,” said Spc. Nathan Riveras, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt. (Assault).
Maj. Toby Risner, the executive officer for 2nd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt. (Assault), joined his troopers in the field to see the progress they were making.
“There is a lot of preparation on a battlefield to determine what the enemy is doing and that is what Major Schwenn and her team are working to perfect,” Risner said “For some, this is their first time to participate in this type of exercise. I believe that in the few days they have been out here, I am confident they will rise to the occasion if, or when, that time comes.”
The 2nd Bn., 82nd Avn. Regt. (Assault) leadership plans to continue such training events in the coming months as they prepare to support the U.S. global response force.
“No one knows what the future will hold,” Risner said. “You can rest assured; we will continue this type of training, always being mission ready.”