FORT BRAGG, N.C. - When someone mentions the 82nd Airborne Division, almost immediately, people envision a Paratrooper equipped with a rucksack, weapon, and parachute jumping out of an airplane into the night sky to fight for the Stars and Stripes.

Usually, people don't think about the steps and people it takes to get the Paratrooper out of the airplane door and onto the battlefield. There are pilots flying the planes, an extensive supply chain feeding and equipping the war fighter, and even mechanics keeping the vehicles and generators running. These service members are vital to the success of the Airborne.

The 82nd Abn. Div. just completed its nine-day Joint Operational Access Exercise, Feb. 16, which focused on the basic tasks the division needs to perfect in order to reach mission accomplishment.

The 82nd Paratroopers weren't the only ones out there in on the battlefield, important partnerships between outside units and the U.S. Air Force were crucial to getting the 82nd up in the air and out the door on time.

"We are a Joint Task Force," said Maj. Christopher Hossfeld, the division chief of staff of operations. "It takes all elements, operating in the spirit of teamwork, working professionally and in a timely manner to spell out the success of the Task Force, not just the 82nd."

Preparation and coordination for the JOAX has been going on for months, even outside of Fort Bragg.

"Planning for this training has been going since November for us," stated Maj. Alton Williams, the battalion executive officer for 11th Transportation Battalion from Fort Story, Va.

Williams said, "Working with the 82nd Airborne has been a great experience for us, especially since we will be supporting the 1st Brigade Combat Team at (Joint Readiness Training Center) in the fall."

The 11th Transportation Battalion has been the mayor cell of the Intermediate Staging Base at Camp Mackall (which is approximately 30 miles from Ft. Bragg). They also tracked equipment for the 82nd and other units present at the ISB.

Another supporting unit that was crucial to the success of the exercise was the 615th Contingency Response Wing out of Travis Air Force Base, California. The 82nd partnered with the 615th CRW while providing disaster relief in Haiti last year. The 615th was responsible for operating and maintaining the airfield at the ISB.

"Our job is to create an Aerial Port where one doesn't exist," said Maj. Chris Kiser,USAF, the operations officer for the Joint Task Force Port Opening. "What makes us unique is that we can do it quickly and in virtually any environment. We are also responsible for loading and unloading equipment onto the aircraft."

Kiser also said, "we have the ability to deploy within 12 hours and tailor our own packages (support elements) to the needs of the mission."

The JOAX also allowed supporting elements a chance to work and train with other elements they will see during real world missions.

The 615th trained heavily during this JOAX with the 689th Rapid Port Opening Element. The 689th RPOE tracks, stages, and distributes transported equipment. They maintained a staging area at Luzon Drop Zone on the installation.

"Without us, the war-fighter wouldn't have what they need to fight," said Maj. Ryan King, the detachment commander for the 689th RPOE. "One of our biggest roles is to maintain visibility on the equipment."

"Its great for all of us to get to know the other services and support. If something does happen, we are on twelve hour (deployment) notice, so getting to know each other in this training really helps," Ryan said.

For the first time since 2008, the entire 82nd Airborne is back home at Fort Bragg,N.C., all at the same time. It's using exercises like the JOAX to focus on getting back to the basics. Those basic attributes of success happen to involve a lot more than just the "All American" shoulder patch; they also include a host of Airmen and fellow Soldiers.

Col. David Chandler, USAF, said it best. "It's not a matter of if we see each other again, but where and when."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16