The air was thick and humid. Thunder cracked in the distance making its way closer to the jumpers. A nervous aura surrounded the paratroopers as they prepared to jump into “Atropia.”
Atropia was the simulated country that requested military presence by the U.S. government. This set the stage for Joint Operations Access Exercise 13-03.
JOAX was a seven-day exercise that tested the 82nd Airborne Division’s ability to plan and rapidly deploy anywhere in the world within 96-hours and face a variety of complex situations. This exercise included
five of the six brigades in the 82nd Abn. Div., an element from the 82nd Abn. Div. headquarters, Marines, and Airmen.
“JOAX enabled the Panther Brigade to exercise invaluable joint and combined arms maneuver training on Fort Bragg,” said Lt. Col. Shane Morgan, commander of 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team. “This training scenario also prepared our paratroopers for our mission to rapidly deploy and operate anywhere in the world.”
Upon arrival to Green Ramp, paratroopers drew their parachutes, received the final mission brief, and took their remaining orders from their primary jumpmasters.
When the doors to the flight line were opened, paratroopers looked in amazement at the number of aircraft waiting to fly them to the objective. The pungent smell of jet fuel filled the flight line as the paratroopers walked out onto the tarmac and boarded their assigned aircraft.
More then 20 aircraft took off from Pope Field heading toward a fight that was designed to test the capabilities of the brigade.
For three hours the aircraft flew toward Atropia.
Then, the 10-minute warning was called out.
The sequence of events had begun. Before the paratroopers knew it, 30 seconds rolled off the tongue of the PJ.
A final clear to the rear, then the order of “stand by” was given.
As the number one jumper stood in the door waiting … anticipating, the jumpmaster yelled, “go.”
More then 1,200 paratroopers jumped on the
night of June 24.
“Upon exiting the aircraft and counting to four, my parachute deployed as expected,” said Sgt. Derrick Haughton, an intelligence noncommissioned officer for 3rd BCT.
“I had enough time to release my ruck but I had trouble hitting the quick release snap to lower my COM 201 lightweight VHF communications
antenna that I had attached to my lowering line with weapons exposed,” he added.
This started the execution phase, commonly known as P-Hour, for JOAX 13-03.
The execution of this joint exercise, allowed the division to integrate Marine and Air Force with Army assets into complex situations.
The first complex
situation faced was the non-combatant evacuation operation of role players acting as American and Canadian citizens. The evacuation was necessary to safeguard the citizens based on the JOAX scenario.
“Air Force tactical air control parties are located at each maneuver echelon in a direct support relationship,” said Air Force 1st Lt.
Eamonn O’Shea, air liaison officer with 14th Air Support Operations Squadron. “This allows them to plan and employ close air support aircraft at key points throughout the operation.”
Another objective for JOAX was the training for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear in scenarios where infantry units and recon units secured different chemical storage facilities.
“Training for a CBRN event allows the brigade to bring more capabilities to the fight,” said Army Capt. Jesse Geyer, 3rd Brigade’s chemical officer. “This ensures that every possible scenario that we could face when assuming global response force is properly trained for.”
With the complex situations that are facing our military globally, it is critical that basic Soldiering skills are tested and joint operational planning is conducted.
“The 82nd Airborne Division is expected to respond anywhere in the world within 18 hours of notification. That is a tall order. It requires more than just practice,” said Col. Michael R. Fenzel, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. “What it requires is brigades like our 3rd BCT to be tested under the same conditions we will face in the midst of an international emergency.
“We were fortunate to have every component of that tall order present in one week of incredible training,” he added.