82nd Airborne Division Paratroopers of older generations and the current one are familiar with what it means to be ready at all times to deploy anywhere in the world at any time. They know the late-night calls. The standard is always the same: everybody in ranks and ready to deploy.
The 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, or “Panther Brigade” has held the torch of the U.S. Army’s Global Response Force now for more than a year. In that time, they’ve trained in a variety of scenarios ranging from traditional airborne assaults, to hard-charging military operations in urban terrain.
The brigade has also deployed 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment on short notice to Afghanistan to serve for nine months as a headquarters unit for Special Operations Forces.
Since their return earlier this year, the torch has been passed once again to the Paratroopers of the Panther Brigade. This time 2nd Bn., 505th PIR, along with support elements from 82nd Brigade Support Battalion, and 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, will be sent to Afghanistan to support combat and counterinsurgency operations.
The Panther Brigade has a long history of responding to a variety of conflicts and crises around the world, ranging from Vietnam to Grenada, to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.
Their latest scheduled training mission, a Joint Operations Access Exercise, was to be the quarterly culminating event that not only demonstrates to the unit’s leadership what these men are capable of, but also a demonstration to the world of the 82nd Abn. Div.’s ability to rapidly deploy and seize its objectives.
A typical JOAX begins with an airborne assault onto a hostile drop zone protected by other Soldiers portraying the enemy, commonly known as opposing forces, or “OPFOR”. The assaulting infantrymen and supporting Soldiers will then attack and secure all the OPFOR-controlled buildings and other fighting positions.
As the Paratroopers of 2nd Bn., 505th PIR continued to plan and train for JOAX, a request for forces came to the Panther Brigade.
“This is exactly what our Paratroopers prepare for as part of the Global Response Force. They are tough, well-trained, and always ready to respond,” said Col. Michael Fenzel, commander of the 3rd BCT.
As one infantry battalion prepares to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the other begins to train for the next potential conflict or natural disaster.
On June 6, 2012, less than three months after their return from Afghanistan, 1st Bn., 505th PIR took the reigns as the main assault for the JOAX.
“The Battalion did very well going from a mission focused on noncontiguous squads operating separately to operating collectively as a battalion to rapidly seize assault objectives,” said Maj. Jeremy Turner, the 1st Bn., 505th PIR operations officer.
“It’s a good step-off point to understand what we need to improve in collective training and individual Paratrooper skills necessary for the GRF mission,” said Turner.