A small patrol of eight soldiers slowly and carefully edged around the open St. Mere-Eglise Drop Zone, weapons at the ready, their eyes constantly scanning the tall weeds for anything out of the ordinary.
Suddenly to their right, the sound of enemy gun fire. Quickly and tactically, the patrol falls back to a safer location … but not without taking a “casualty.”
Army reserve soldiers from the United Kingdom’s 4th Parachute Regiment teamed up with their U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) counterparts during a two-week, combined training exercise that not only gave them the opportunity to train together, but also enhanced the partnership between the U.K. and the U.S.
“We went out on what we would call, a standing patrol into enemy territory, in which we came into enemy contact. We then went into contact drills, extraction . . . so on; getting on with it, beating back the enemy until we could get back in there, figure out our next maneuver, and could back to patrolling,” explained Pvt. Robert Ferrie, an infantryman with the 4th Para. “We also took on a casualty, so we had to do a casualty evacuation as well. All in all, it went quite smoothly even when trying to adjust to (a different) weapons system.”
Throughout their exercise, the U.K. soldiers were trained on many different tasks such as medical aid, airborne operations, tactical movement, and hand-to-hand combat. They were also physically challenged by the Special Forces obstacle course, ‘Nasty Nick.’
Although the 4th Para soldiers enjoyed the tasks and drills given them, adjusting to the differences in training and procedures was challenging, including the weather.
“One of the main issues on the drills was the different weapons systems that we don’t normally use, which threw a few of us for a loop. But once we got the hang of it and a got a rhythm, we were able to get moving through the drill pretty well,” said Pvt. Michael Rice, 4th Para. “The temperature is very different here too. We are used to training in the freezing cold, but the big difference is the systems. But once you get used to that, a weapon is a weapon,” he noted.
“I wouldn’t say anything has been particularly hard,” explained Ferrie. “It’s just doing what we usually do, but in the humidity. Adjusting to the humidity has been hard.”
Medical training at the Reservoir International Training Facility proved to be the most valuable to many of the U.K. soldiers. It provided a real-life scenario in which the soldiers needed to rescue a seriously injured comrade from a mock Afghan village. The training included realistic casualties and a stressful environment to simulate combat overseas.
“The medical training has been most beneficial to me, because personally I don’t do enough of it. If you’re out on the ground and your (team member) goes down, you need to at least do some basic care for them until the medic gets to them,” said Ferrie.
Working together has also proven useful for both countries’ soldiers. Spc. Amanda Regalado, 360th Civil Affairs Brigade out of Fort Jackson, S.C., recently had the opportunity to go to England and train with the U.K. soldiers in Operation Air Drop Warrior, a combined airborne operation the 4th Para has hosted for the past five years. In 2011, USACAPOC(A) was able to return the favor by hosting the 4th Para here, in order to prepare them for a difficult deployment to Helmand province.
“The opportunity to have U.S. Soldiers go to (another country) to work and train with another military was not only a great experience, but to be in their environment and learn their culture was really good as well,” said Regalado, who’s military occupation speciality is civil affairs and relies on effective communication and building rapport for mission success. “Having a good relationship with them is important because later down the road, if you need their support they may be more willing to help if the rapport is already established.”
“I think (combined training) is rather good because wherever either (army) goes, the other will be as well because we have quite a strong coalition, especially with everything that happens in the world,” Ferrie said. “You know, uncertain world . . . uncertain times, it’s good to train together and get used to working with each other; learn how each other plays so we can find some sort of middle ground.”