The division with the most deployments under its belt is at it again.

After being the last division headquarters element to serve a 15-month rotation in Afghanistan, the 101st Airborne Division headquarters is training to deploy back to eastern Afghanistan next summer, only about a year after they returned.

Unlike the division's brigade combat teams and many other Army units, the headquarters element that resides in the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 101st Airborne Division, has a very different mission. This mission calls for different training that is performed in two segments: Eagle Talon, which ran Tuesday through Thursday, and Unified Endeavour, scheduled for the last week of January and the first week of February.

"We are managing information flow from the forces, the war fighters on the ground," said Lt. Col. Dan Morgan, chief of operations for the division. "The infantry Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are on the ground fight the fight and report the information up. They actually own the battle space and they maneuver on it whether is lethal or nonlethal operations. We manage all the information to best support all those operations."

The headquarters is using a simulated joint operations center bridge, similar to the one it will man at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.

"Joint Readiness Training centers are for [brigade combat teams] and are set up to actually provide observer/ controller teams for brigades and below," Morgan said. "They are not set up for a division headquarters. We are not truly maneuvering forces on land. We are actually working through computer simulations so we can allocate resources and communicate from a command and control perspective."

The individuals who will work on the bridge, in the JOC or even at Bagram Air Field, may never see the ground forces they support except through surveillance feed. But they man their stations 24/7, plan and monitor the ongoing operations as they unfold and stand ready to give the often life-saving support needed should troops come into contact with hostile forces.

The training is based on real-world events, Morgan said. "It is actually running parallel to real-world events that are happening in Afghanistan and within Regional Command-East, where we are going to assume control as a division headquarters. So we have taken real-world names and places and actual events and integrated them into a system where the staff can come together and train for the first time the way we will actually fight."

Training scenarios based on real life have been modified to the event at another place, time or unit because of operational security concerns, Morgan said. The unit will learn how to deal with and support the ground troops during things like IED strikes, the destruction of vehicles and casualties.

This kind of training is of huge importance Morgan added, not only for the value of the knowledge learned, but for other reasons for a unique unit like the HHB, 101st, a battalion the size of a brigade. Unlike a battalion or even a brigade with its own usually tight-knit area on post, the work areas for the division headquarters are spread throughout Fort Campbell. These Soldiers, officers and noncommissioned officers can go long periods without seeing or meeting other service members even in their own company. This exercise provides that opportunity to these troops.

"To me that's critical; I think that's the most important part," Morgan said. "All the people that work on the floor, they work in all these staff sections or war fighting functions ... they stay in their lanes at home but in country it all comes together and they do it all face to face."

These Soldiers can now put a face to the requirement or duty. It's no longer a position, it's a person.

This training came just in time for Spc. Rudy R. Harvey and Spc. Cory P. Devore, two forward observers with Company A, HHB 101st Abn. Div. Harvey and Devore arrived together in early August from their previous duty station in Korea.

While they said it was good to have someone familiar come with them to a new assignment, Fort Campbell and its Soldiers were new and different to them.

"We interact with a lot more people this way," Harvey said of Eagle Talon, "and these are the people we are going to deploy with. Being here helps you meet almost everyone. And, while you might not meet them all, this really gives you a good feel of who you are working with."

Harvey and Devore trained to carry out ground operations, a far cry from what they will be doing in the JOC.

"Our job when we were in Korea when we were always out in the field was shooting stuff, so that's what we wanted to do when we deployed, not sit on a computer," Devore said. "But from this we are seeing how the computers are a vital part of the job. Even though you have guys on the ground you still have to have someone back there to process things to see if your area is clear to fire, if you have the assets to fire."

Devore said this training is helping him to understand the strengths assets like artillery and close-air support are available at each forward operating base.

"From this you know your strengths and what you are missing, then you know what your guys on the ground have," he said. "If they come under contact, they know what they can do, instead of them wondering what they should do."

For Harvey and Devore, two new troops to the unit getting ready for their first deployment, the future is about to be full of "firsts" for them. But for Spc. Steven Duffy, a cable systems installer and maintainer with Company C, HHB, 101st Abn. Div., this is all round two.

Duffy said he and others like him sometimes don't see the point of conducting training when they already know the drills inside and out. But he said he also realizes his role as more of a trainer than anything else.

"There are a few guys that were with us on the last deployment at other FOBs, and I can give them insight on the larger spectrum operation," Duffy said. "It's going good. Hopefully it will help them in the long run with the deployment."

Other Soldiers involved in the training may not be going with the unit during the deployment. Morgan said there are downsides to this but the rewards are twofold.

"Obviously the downside is they are learning but they are not going to deploy with us," he said. "But ... the officers, NCOs and Soldiers that are not going to deploy with us still are learning the foundation and the baselines."

Morgan said the joint operations floor will likely be around for a long time, which allows Soldiers training on it to bring in their replacements and educate them on what they have learned to date. "We actually get some continuity as they permanently change stations and we receive new people," he said. "The second thing is they get to take it to the next unit and impart that knowledge. Hopefully it will help another unit wherever they go."

Page last updated Fri November 20th, 2009 at 16:31