173rd Airborne Brigade paratroopers air assault through mock village during Saber Junction 14
September 1, 2014
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HOHENFELS, Germany (Sept. 1, 2014) -- After walking about three kilometers through forests, paratroopers of Company A, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, made their way from the air assault infiltration location and tactically moved on foot through thick vegetation.
Their objective was to conduct a deliberate attack on the military operations on an urban terrain site known as Haaslat Village at Hohenfels Training Area here, Thursday.
The area was quiet, except for the people at the café across the street eating lunch. It was another typical day in Haaslat Village.
Villagers knew of the enemy combatants who had taken over the building across the two-lane road, but other than the helicopters that flew overhead like hawks looking for prey, nothing seemed different.
The quiet day ended with sounds of gunfire echoing in the distance. Vegetation was thick, so no one was seen from the direction of the noises. Were more enemy combatants coming to take the rest of the village?
Once at the wood line, the paratroopers used a natural berm as a shield. They provided cover fire and kept the opposing forces engaged while squads ran to the buildings to begin the deliberate attack at the village.
The paratroopers in platoon-size teams stormed the buildings in a zig-zag and leap-frog formation with other platoons, said paratrooper Spc. Nicholas Smart of Rye, from New Hampshire. One platoon at a time, they went into each building and cleared the enemy combatants from the village.
The village was freed from the enemy, also known as opposing forces, referred to as OPFOR. Members of the Massachusetts Army National Guard played the OPFOR during Exercise Saber Junction 14.
Leaders used all available assets to gather intelligence on the ground from the helicopter pilots. Apache air weapons teams used their overhead advantage and gave ground commanders information on the number of OPFOR on rooftops, as well as any other information important to the success of the mission. The air weapon teams also assisted ground troops by firing on the OPFOR, eliminating a few early on.
Although the paratroopers successfully completed their mission, they sustained "casualties," which were identified by the beeping of Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System gear.
MILES gear is a laser-enabled training aid signifying the simulated small-arms fire hit the participant. All members participating in the event wear the laser-enabled training devices, but they are also part of weapon systems as well as vehicles. These multi-frequency devices help the observer controllers accurately identify when there are "hits" from either the friendly forces, civilians on the battlefield or OPFOR.
All movements and tasks completed were as realistic as possible. A medical evacuation was called in for the "wounded" and just as they would during a real battle, those listed as the most severe were carried by a fellow paratrooper through overgrown, rough terrain to board a helicopter taking them to the hospital.
Although the paratroopers picked a site that was a little far from the objective to medically evacuate their "wounded," Observer-Controller Sgt. 1st Class Sean Spoors, of Jacksonville, Florida, and a Timberwolf team member, said that the group executed it perfectly.
This realistic training provides the vital opportunity for U.S. service members to train as they fight, and overall they did well, Spoors said.
"They had a solid plan and established good company-level TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures)," Spoors said. "Even down to the lowest Soldier, they knew what to do. If their leadership had disappeared, they could carry on and execute the mission."
Before calling an end to the exercise, the paratroopers boarded two UH-60 Black Hawks and one UH-47 Chinook helicopter to exit the "battlefield" and return to their base camp.
Saber Junction 14 also features paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade leading a multinational, joint forcible entry exercise in the Baltic States, while simultaneously serving as part of a multinational brigade task force at the Joint Multinational Training Command's Joint Multinational Readiness Center, conducting offensive and defensive operations such as this air assault.