• Paratroopers with Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fire their M119A2 105mm howitzer during a training exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 31, 2011.  The Soldiers provide artillery support for 3,500 paratroopers, and can insert their howitzers into the battlefield by parachute.

    Paratroopers go old school with full-spectrum training 1 of 22

    Paratroopers with Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, fire their M119A2 105mm howitzer during a training exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 31, 2011. The Soldiers provide...

  • A paratrooper with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, moves to secure an open hallway during a training exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 31, 2011. The green bands around his helmet are part of a laser-based tactical engagement simulation system, i.e., “laser tag.”

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    A paratrooper with the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, moves to secure an open hallway during a training exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 31, 2011. The green bands around his helmet...

  • A forward observer with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team uses an infrared sight to target objects at night during field training July 27, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C.  His unit is conducting full-spectrum training during 10 days of field training during record summer heat.

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    A forward observer with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team uses an infrared sight to target objects at night during field training July 27, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. His unit is conducting full-spectrum training during 10 days of...

  • An unarmed civilian surrenders to paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team as they clear a simulated building July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Placing a few unarmed civilians among armed ones forces the paratroopers to make quick, accurate decisions in high-stress situations.

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    An unarmed civilian surrenders to paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team as they clear a simulated building July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Placing a few unarmed civilians among armed ones forces the paratroopers to...

  • An unarmed civilian surrenders to paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team as they clear a simulated building July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C.  Placing a few unarmed civilians among armed ones forces the paratroopers to make quick, accurate decisions in high-stress situations.

    Paratroopers go old school with full-spectrum training 5 of 22

    An unarmed civilian surrenders to paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team as they clear a simulated building July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Placing a few unarmed civilians among armed ones forces the paratroopers to...

  • Col. Mark L. Stock, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, provides tips to a Soldier on an M2 .50-caliber machine gun guarding the front gate of an artillery firebase during a week-long field exercise July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C.  The Soldier's unit, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, is relearning how to operate from a dug-in gun position, something they have practiced little since the beginning of the war on terrorism.

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    Col. Mark L. Stock, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, provides tips to a Soldier on an M2 .50-caliber machine gun guarding the front gate of an artillery firebase during a week-long field exercise July 31, 2011, at Fort...

  • Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team provide overwatch security and reconnaissance to fellow paratroopers who are entering a mock village below them during field training July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C.  During the training, insurgents attack the village while their platoon leader is meeting with village elders.

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    Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team provide overwatch security and reconnaissance to fellow paratroopers who are entering a mock village below them during field training July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. During the...

  • Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team enter a mock village to meet with village elders and military officials during field training July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The exercise is part of a testing and evaluation process of the brigade's infantry platoons.

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    Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team enter a mock village to meet with village elders and military officials during field training July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The exercise is part of a testing and evaluation...

  • A platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team meets with village elders and military officials during a field-training exercise designed to test and evaluate infantry platoons July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. During the meeting, insurgents attacked the village, forcing the young lieutenant to make numerous quick decisions under a stressful situation.

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    A platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team meets with village elders and military officials during a field-training exercise designed to test and evaluate infantry platoons July 31, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. During the...

  • A Special Forces officer with 3rd Special Forces Group instructs a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team on close-quarter marksmanship during field training Aug. 1, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Leadership in the paratrooper's unit, 307th Brigade Support Battalion, arranged for the combat-support troops to receive the training as one facet of a week-long field exercise.

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    A Special Forces officer with 3rd Special Forces Group instructs a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team on close-quarter marksmanship during field training Aug. 1, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Leadership in the...

  • A paratrooper from the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, wipes sweat from his glasses during a field training exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 31, 2011. The training is part of an exercise designed to test and evaluate his and other platoons with the 504th PIR.

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    A paratrooper from the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, wipes sweat from his glasses during a field training exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., July 31, 2011. The training is part of an...

  • A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team fires his machine at targets during a mounted gunnery exercise July 29, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. His unit, Company D of 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, trains as a mounted infantry unit.  During the exercises, two gun-trucks practice "bounding," during which one truck will provide covering fire while the other moves forward and vice versa.

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    A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team fires his machine at targets during a mounted gunnery exercise July 29, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. His unit, Company D of 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, trains as...

  • A mortarman with the 82nd Airborne Division fires an M224 60mm mortar during field training July 27, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The M224 is light enough to be carried by infantryman on patrols.

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    A mortarman with the 82nd Airborne Division fires an M224 60mm mortar during field training July 27, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The M224 is light enough to be carried by infantryman on patrols.

  • A COLT, or combat observation lasing team, with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team calls in illumination rounds from nearby mortars during training July 27, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The forward observers are working between two armed security vehicles.

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    A COLT, or combat observation lasing team, with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team calls in illumination rounds from nearby mortars during training July 27, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The forward observers are working between two armed...

  • A route-reconnaissance team of cavalry scouts with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team reacts to machine-gun fire during field training July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C.  The scouts are checking the roadway for "travelability," or use as a travel route by other elements of the brigade.

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    A route-reconnaissance team of cavalry scouts with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team reacts to machine-gun fire during field training July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The scouts are checking the roadway for "travelability," or use...

  • Cavalry scouts with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team detain an enemy combatant during field training July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C.  Each scout platoon is being judged on a multitude of tasks during the week-long field exercise conducted in record heat.

    Paratroopers go old school with full-spectrum training 16 of 22

    Cavalry scouts with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team detain an enemy combatant during field training July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Each scout platoon is being judged on a multitude of tasks during the week-long field exercise...

  • A gunner manning an M240B machine gun radios other members of his route-reconnaissance team while participating in field exercises with 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. His unit, 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, acts as the eyes and ears of the brigade.

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    A gunner manning an M240B machine gun radios other members of his route-reconnaissance team while participating in field exercises with 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. His unit, 3rd Squadron, 73rd...

  • Fuelers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team refill a Humvee while supporting a complex, weeklong field exercise July 27, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C.   Their battalion, 307th Brigade Support Battalion, provides logistical and sustainment support, including fuel, food, water, transportation, ammunition and medical aid to 3,500 paratroopers.  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

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    Fuelers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team refill a Humvee while supporting a complex, weeklong field exercise July 27, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Their battalion, 307th Brigade Support Battalion, provides logistical and...

  • A gunner behind an M240B machine gun provides covering fire at night for an assault team attacking the compound at upper right during platoon evaluations for cavalry scouts assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division'’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Cav scouts are the eyes and ears of the brigade.

    Paratroopers go old school with full-spectrum training 19 of 22

    A gunner behind an M240B machine gun provides covering fire at night for an assault team attacking the compound at upper right during platoon evaluations for cavalry scouts assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division'’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, July 28...

  • Cavalry scouts with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team place a "wounded" Soldier on a litter after a simulated attack by roadside bomb during night training July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The training is part of a multi-day platoon evaluation exercise.

    Paratroopers go old school with full-spectrum training 20 of 22

    Cavalry scouts with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team place a "wounded" Soldier on a litter after a simulated attack by roadside bomb during night training July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The training is part of a multi-day...

  • Staff Sgt. Christopher Adolf, a cavalry scout platoon sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team twirls a chemical light to mark a landing zone for a Medevac helicopter during a field exercise July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. While the helicopter and wounded Soldiers are fictional, the training is otherwise very realistic.

    Paratroopers go old school with full-spectrum training 21 of 22

    Staff Sgt. Christopher Adolf, a cavalry scout platoon sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team twirls a chemical light to mark a landing zone for a Medevac helicopter during a field exercise July 28, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C...

  • Medics with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team treat simulated wounds to a paratrooper during a mass-casualty exercise Aug. 2, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The exercise is just one part of a week-long field-training exercise involving nearly 3,000 paratroopers.

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    Medics with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team treat simulated wounds to a paratrooper during a mass-casualty exercise Aug. 2, 2011, at Fort Bragg, N.C. The exercise is just one part of a week-long field-training exercise involving...

FORT BRAGG, N.C., Aug. 10, 2011 -- Paratroopers here stepped up back-to-basics training with a 10-day brigade-sized field exercise during one of the hottest weeks of one of the hottest summers on record.

Over three thousand paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team removed themselves from garrison life to focus on basic skills critical to accomplishing the missions they might be assigned, said brigade commander, Col. Mark L. Stock.

For the brigade staff, the field training exercise, or FTX, was an opportunity to build their systems, test their tools and to discover how their time and resources can be best used to accomplish the mission, said Stock.

“Everybody fights. Ask yourselves, ‘What needs to be done?’” Stock said to his staff.

While there were a number of heat-related injuries, particularly early on in the exercise, brigade and battalion leaders modified the training times and operational tempo to reduce the risk while still offering challenging training.

“The conditions are realistic,” said Maj. Jason Condrey, operations officer for 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, one of 1BCT’s two infantry battalions. Fresh from the second of two tours to Afghanistan, Condrey added, “As far as leadership lessons, we need to learn when we should and should not do operations and how we should do them when the environment is as fierce as it is here and some portions of Afghanistan. The fact that it’s hot doesn’t mean we don’t have a job to do. We have to learn how to operate.”

Within the brigade’s six battalions, training focused on platoon-level “collective” skills that built upon the individual, team and squad-level training accomplished earlier in the year, according to Maj. Mark Stouffer, officer in charge of brigade operations.

Stouffer, who began his Army career as a lieutenant with the 82nd in 1996 and went on to serve with the Rangers and other units within the special-operations community, said that he was proud of the hard work going on both physically and mentally under brutally hot conditions.

For infantry platoons with 2-504th PIR, the training included rotations through a strenuous 72-hour field problem during which they were graded by external evaluators.

The field problem included movement to contact, a key-leader engagement, ambush, setting up a defensive position and a live-fire range, peppered with smaller tasks along the way that might include reacting to mortar attack or roadside bomb, or calling in air support or Medevac helicopter.

“When designing the training lanes, we went back to the basics,” said Lt. Col. Praxitelis “Nick” Vamvakias, 2-504 battalion commander.

“A lot of guys had deployed experience, but not so much in a field environment outside of [fortified U.S. bases] and doing mounted and dismounted patrolling from those locations,” Vamvakias said. “So we went back to the basics of fire and maneuver with movement to contact and defense so that everyone learned the principles and priorities of work in both.”

“Then, platoon attack,” he added. “We are an offensive Army. Platoon attack is a critical, essential task for a platoon to execute.”

Lessons learned by the infantrymen included over-communicating one’s piece of the action; being precise and accurate when reporting enemy movement, position and numbers; using speed as a form of security; never look away from where one’s muzzle is pointed; in a building, not forgetting the fight outside; how to use enablers such as scouts once they have joined the team; preventing fratricide when clearing buildings; remembering the old adage that that “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”

These fundamental skills were evaluated in addition to counterinsurgency operations such as the key-leader engagements and reacting to roadside bombs, tasks more common in today’s asymmetrical warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Vamvakias.

Vamvakias, who began his Army career in the 82nd as a platoon leader with 1st Battalion, 504th PIR, said that, in spite of the greater aggregate of skills required of today’s troops, they are wholly capable of rising to the challenge.

“They are American soldiers,” he said. “They are very capable, flexible and adaptable individuals. Pushing everybody to their limits is what helps them realize they can do more.

“When I was a platoon leader, my brigade commander, now retired Gen. John Abizaid, was asked whether we should have a peace-keeping and a combat army or just a combat army. His answer was, ‘If you are an expert at the basics, you can do anything.’ He dealt with counterinsurgency and irregular warfare before it was commonplace. I go back to that statement to remind us of the importance of the basics.”

Training lanes for the brigade’s reconnaissance battalion, 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, included many of the same challenges posed to the infantry, but with added cavalry-specific tasks such as route reconnaissance and tactical mounted gunnery.

“We have to fight as infantry for the first 24 hours, and then we have to do the reconnaissance fight for our boss immediately following the assault,” said Lt. Col. Mark Dotson, squadron commander.

As with much of the brigade, 3-73 CAV lost many of its noncommissioned officers a year ago following its return from Iraq. Training exercises like this FTX are critical to rebuilding noncommissioned officer, or NCO, strength, said Dotson.

“The NCOs we have coming in are more mechanized or Stryker oriented,” he said. “We are having to retrain those guys as well as our new privates as they come in.”

Dotson said the benefit of having that cross section of NCOs with varied experiences is that, once they do figure out how to make the platoons work, they often bring fresh and sometimes better ideas to the table.

The brigade’s artillery support, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, was somewhat ahead of the rest of the battalions with battalion-level operations. In a nod to the back-to-basics framework, they enlisted the aid of combat engineers to construct a dug-in firebase with concealed artillery positions, a perimeter of earthworks, concertina wire and gun positions and round-the-clock guards.

Support troops, including the truckers, fuelers, cooks and medics of 307th Brigade Support Battalion, and the engineers, communications and intelligence specialists, and military police of 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion conducted their own platoon evaluations while supporting the various battalions as they would in combat.

Since the Army modularized its forces in 2004-05 and brigade combat teams became self-sustaining units with their own organic combat enablers, brigade FTXs are rich opportunities for combat and support troops to train together and learn from each other, agreed Vamvakias and Dotson.

“Now it is very easy for us during our squad live-fire portion to integrate fires from 3-319th, and they are able to support us very easily,” explained Dotson. “On the route reconnaissance and mounted gunnery ranges, we had engineers from 1BSTB. Ten years ago you would not see these things as part of a platoon ex-eval because it would be so hard to coordinate. Now it’s just a matter of course.”

The FTX also allowed the entire brigade staff to exercise their systems in the field, practice their standard operating procedures, test connectivity with the battalions, and work through growing pains, said Stouffer, the brigade operations officer.

“Our progress over last six to eight months has been very good, but there’s always room for improvement,” he said. “I believe that’s our job as leaders and as Soldiers. The training path ahead of us will definitely get us to where we need to be prior to a deployment.”

That type of progress in a complex training environment is typical of paratroopers, said Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Brzak, the senior enlisted adviser with 2-504. Though Brzak began his career with the light-infantry 10th Mountain Division, he has since served with every airborne unit in the Army outside of a Ranger Regiment.

“The 82nd has a long, proud history of having quality NCOs and leaders, and they seem to draw the best from throughout the army to come here, share their knowledge, training, and discipline in the organization,” said Brzak, who attributes many of those same qualities to the airborne community at large.

“We infuse changing demands into our training, so that when we get the call to go do something we weren’t planning on doing or receive a change of mission, it’s no big deal,” he said.

The time involved in setup and tear-down required paratroopers to spend two weeks and a weekend away from family, a precious commodity for regularly-deploying troops.

“Taking care of our paratroopers and our families is key,” said Vamvakias. “To take care of our paratroopers in combat, we’ve got to spend quality time training in the field, and that means time away from families. That comes sometimes at the cost of weekends. At the same time, we try to balance that out with additional days off and comp days for the days they were gone in the field.”

Returning from Afghanistan a month ago, his new operations officer, Condrey, agreed.

“You do your job and teach and let those lessons you’ve learned with blood be lessons learned with sweat out here on the training range. That’s what this is all about,” he said.

The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team is currently deployed in al Anbar Province, Iraq, where 1BCT served as an advise-and-assist brigade in a 2009-10 deployment. 3BCT is currently serving as the ground component of the nation’s stand-by emergency Global Response Force, and 4BCT and the Combat Aviation Brigade are slated to deploy to Afghanistan later this fall. The division headquarters is deploying to Afghanistan this month.

1BCT is awaiting orders.

Page last updated Wed August 10th, 2011 at 00:00