Paratroopers assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, tested their ability to jump into a hostile environment as they conducted a Joint Operational Access Exercise on Sicily and Holland drop zones, Jan. 11.

Also participating in the JOAX were paratroopers from the Royal Netherlands army, who made the long trip to receive valuable training on different techniques and procedures from their U.S. counterparts.

The brigade has participated in multiple training exercises throughout the previous year as they prepared to take on the responsibility of the U.S. Army’s Global Response Force, which they assumed in October 2013.

The latest training exercise demonstrates that the Panther Brigade and the 82nd Airborne Division is not only well trained, but also ready to deploy whenever and wherever needed at a moments notice.

With inclement weather threatening to halt airborne operations, paratroopers did their best to exit the aircraft in the dark of night and seize two airfields simultaneously which was occupied by enemy forces.  However, only 385 of about 1500 jumpers actually made it out the door due to high winds.

“Even with a limited amount of jumpers, we were still able to clear the objective and establish mission command,” said Maj. John Thyng, 3rd BCT logistics officer.  “We did it all rather quickly and efficiently in really difficult conditions.  Rain, wind, mud; all those things conspired against us but we were still very successful,” he said.

“It was good to jump in bad weather at night.  It gets you used to what you can possibly look for in a real combat situation,” Thyng went on to say.

Besides the airborne exercise, the paratroopers also conducted multiple, non-combatant evacuation operation exercises where they were tasked with evacuating American, Dutch and Canadian citizens from hostile environments by helicopter as well as by ground convey.

“The purpose of NEO is to quickly move non-combatant evacuees from foreign countries where the Department of State has assessed that they are at significant risk by war, civil unrest or natural disaster,” said Maj. Owen Mohn, civil affairs officer for 3rd BCT.

The brigade established an evacuation control center where all evacuees were to be processed and prepared for departure, as the evacuees may be temporarily moved to a safe location in a nearby country or back to the United States.

“This type of mission is different from the combat operations that the Army has been focused on over the last 12 years,” said Mohn.  “The paratroopers adjusted to the change and did an excellent job executing the evacuation.

“It was a learning opportunity for all of us, including the DoS personnel who came out to support and observe the exercise,” said Mohn.