Dense fog, cold and wet weather with the sounds of thick British accents everywhere seems like an average English day, until the accents were silenced by the boom of American artillery rounds reminding the British paratroopers they were on U.S. soil.
“We rarely go anywhere or on an exercise where we don’t bring the English rain with us and the cold temperatures, so the guys are pretty well prepared for that,” said Maj. Justin Baker, the battery commander for Battery G, 7th Parachute Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery, British army.
From Jan. 9 to 16, about 30 British artillery paratroopers visited the 82nd Airborne Division as part of Operation Pegasus Cypher.
Organized by the 82nd Abn. Div. Artillery, the exercise was designed to test the different artillery systems and develop methods to provide accurate and timely fires in a joint environment, while strengthening the bonds with British counterparts.
The interoperability exercise also prepared both nations for an upcoming combined joint operational access exercise in April with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Abn. Div.
It is the small differences between the two cultures that create a gap between the guns. The British have been working side-by-side with American paratroopers from 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, to develop methods to bridge the cultural and communication gaps between the two countries armies.
British Sgt. Jacob Clapp, a gun-line section commander with 7th Para RHA, said many of the things both do are very similar but “it’s just quite a bit of terminology like football and soccer.”
The fire direction officer for 2nd Bn., 319th AFAR, 1st Lt. Adam Wilson, said the whole purpose of interoperability is to find the similarities and differences between the two armies and the path to take to be able to talk the same language — artillery.
An integral piece of the puzzle is how each country’s forward observers request fire support. To mitigate any confusion, the leadership from both countries chose the NATO call for fire format, the same system they would use if deployed as a multinational force.
“We are defaulted to the NATO CFF which we find is very similar to the U.S. CFF, but there are still detail-specific differences that both sides are getting used to. It doesn’t make the mission unsafe,” said Wilson. “We are just trying to find a middle ground and a shared understanding.”
It’s not just the artillerymen who have to learn how to talk to each other; it’s the different communications equipment, not designed to interact, that must communicate.
“Both nations have different communication systems they use which operate and connect to each other in a different number of ways,” said Baker.
Using a standard NATO encryption was one of ways they enabled their main radio systems to operate together, barring any non-standard conditions.
“Weather affects everyone’s comms equally,” Wilson said. Besides the weather, another element intrinsic to all airborne cannoneers is the ability to get their guns on the drop zone.
The United States Army Advanced Airborne School is developing a method to air drop the British L118 light gun from American aircraft.
“That’s never been done before with this system. That’s most definitely a capability enhancement which (goes) to provide a greater degree of flexibility in a way we can both support each other,” said Baker.
“Everywhere your guys (American Soldiers) go, we seem to go,” said Clapp. “We learn things from you, you learn things from us. We are already taking things back to the U.K. that we don’t use and you do.”
The British paratroopers didn’t leave before schooling their American counterparts in a friendly game of soccer, or football match as they call it in Britain. Although the U.S. had home field advantage, the British definitely had the weather on their side. The game came down to a tie and a shootout before crowning the Britons soccer champions.