SOROTI, Uganda - Exercise Atlas Drop 11 came to a close with a ceremony at Drop Zone Blue near Olilim April 20 following three days of aerial-delivery resupply practice missions.

Distinguished visitors for the ceremony included Lt. Gen. Ivan Koreta, deputy chief of Ugandan People's Defense Forces; Virginia Blaser, deputy chief of mission, U.S. Embassy; Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg, commander U.S. Army Africa (USARAF); Maj. Gen. William Nesbitt, adjutant general, Georgia National Guard; and Brig. Gen. James Owens, deputy commander, USARAF; as well as other UPDF and U.S. leaders and Soldiers.

The final ceremony included a demonstration of Low-Cost, Low Altitude, Copter Box and free-drop aerial resupply systems by UPDF platoon and company-level leaders and Soldiers. Following the demonstration, the invited guests moved to the ceremony area and Hogg, Blaser and Koreta were invited to address the crowd made up of local leaders from the Teso subregion, Ugandan and U.S. Soldiers and members of the media.

"(U.S. Soldiers) have had the opportunity to learn and to develop friendships and partnerships with the Soldiers they've worked with here from the UPDF," said Hogg. "For us, that is absolutely invaluable. ... This has been a successful exercise. A lot of work, but it was well worth it."

Koreta praised the success of the exercise, and then declared Atlas Drop 11 finished.

"The objectives of this exercise have been successfully and completely achieved," he said. "It is therefore my duty and honor to declare exercise Atlas Drop 11 successfully concluded."

After completion, all military operations and training exercises are assessed to determine the successes and failures within the mission. Atlas Drop 11 will be no different.

As military leaders and planners study what UPDF and U.S. Soldiers learned while serving together in Soroti, one of the themes that will likely emerge will be an increased ability of both Ugandan and American Soldiers to adapt to rapidly changing conditions.

Lt. Sulaiman Lubega, an infantry platoon leader with 21st Infantry Battalion, UPDF, said he believes U.S. Soldiers will return to their home units having learned from the UPDF's ability to adapt to any situation.

"One thing (U.S. Soldiers have learned from us) is adapting to environments quickly, adapting to the environment to do what is expected of you at that time," he said.

It's no wonder that such a theme would emerge from Atlas Drop 11 - the UPDF has a long history of adapting to challenging situations.

"We have been able to accomplish several missions with very, very limited resources," said Capt. Deo Akiiki, public information officer, 3rd Division, UPDF. As an example, Akiiki cited the instance of Ugandan troops coming home from operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1998 not being allowed to fly home.

The UPDF leaders took on the challenge of limited air assets and moved their troops back home on foot. The troops walked more than 620 miles home, said Akiiki. That caliber of resilience and adaptation was evident as well as on the three Drop Zones of Atlas Drop 11.

At Drop Zone Red, near Kapelebyong north of Soroti, U.S. Soldiers created helicopter and C-130 aircraft models from tape, water bottles and other available resources to provide their Ugandan counterparts with a way of visualizing what they were talking about regarding aerial resupply. U.S. jumpmasters and parachute riggers had to figure out safe and effective ways of dropping loads from aircraft they had little experience with. U.S. aviators showed their versatility teaching classes to UPDF aviators and helping Ugandan staff officers understand aviation operations.

"It's just the uniqueness of the mission to be prepared to do anything from teaching the classes to coordination to helping the task force with safety issues," said Lt. Col. Guy Bass, deputy director of operations, 11th Aviation Command, headquarters for Reserve component aviation, Fort Knox, Ky. "I think there's a challenge in versatility. When you do something like this, you never know what you're going to be faced with."

Versatility-the ability to make oneself useful in any situation-is a trait that serves every Soldier and leader regardless of where they're from or where they work, and it is that ability to adapt that has made training conducted during AD11 a success for both U.S. and Ugandan Soldiers.

"This (shared ability to adapt) can be seen in the way we are working together as if we have been together before, and yet we have been together for a few days and everything is going on smoothly," said Akiiki. "Challenges do not say that you stop at them...If you fall down, you have to get up and move on."

Long after the dust has settled at the DZs and the U.S. Soldiers have returned to their home stations, military leaders and planners will continue to assess the last two weeks of operations and improve upon the lessons learned in Soroti for future operations. Adaptability and versatility aren't easily measured by any quantifiable standard but those two traits will be the longest lasting lessons that every Soldier of AD 11 will take home with them.

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