By Capt. Ed CampbellJanuary 25, 2018
FORT CAMPBELL, KY -- As members of the world's only air assault division, the Screaming Eagles have pioneered and honed their unique tactics, techniques and procedures for more than 75 years. Today, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) continues to provide the U.S. Army with rapid response and unmatched vertical envelopment capability.
That capability was on display when the division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team and 101st Combat Aviation Brigade conducted a brigade-level air assault operation, here, Jan. 19.
The operation provided an opportunity to project force in a non-linear and non-contiguous battle space. It also provided an opportunity for the brigades to test mission command systems, to integrate and synchronize enablers, clear airspace and fires, and control the movement of multiple units simultaneously toward an objective.
"This is a unique capability that we provide the Army," said Col. John P. Cogbill, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. commander. "To be able to conduct an air assault operation deep into the enemy territory, to capitalize on surprise, shock affect, audacity, and present the enemy with multiple dilemmas on any possible battlefield."
Cogbill added that this type of large-scale operation requires extensive planning, synchronization and rehearsals. He also said that building repetition in air assault operations helps to increase proficiency and overall readiness.
"As the Army's only air assault division, we have to be the standard bearers for this type of operation, so this is something that takes practice," he said. "This is just another iteration, as we build that readiness, to be able to provide this capability to the Army."
A capability that now, more than ever, is required as the Army seeks to posture itself optimally for major contingencies that require the ability to conduct the full range of military operations.
"We must maintain our dominance across all domains," said Brig. Gen. K. Todd Royar, 101st Abn. Div. deputy commanding general for support, who observed the operation. "This includes the air and land, and large-scale air assault operations, such as those during Operations Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, for which this division is known."
Restoring dominance was also a theme mentioned by Lt. Col. Joseph Katz, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. commander, whose artillery assets were transported quickly by more than 20 aircraft to protect and ensure the freedom of movement of the brigade's maneuver forces.
"This air assault showed the importance of being able to quickly move artillery pieces by air in order to bring their overwhelming firepower forward into the fight," said Katz. "This is a skill that every air assault artilleryman must master if we're to do this in combat and regain range and lethality overmatch against our adversaries, particularly near peers."
According to Lt. Col. James Yastrzemsky, 6th General Support Aviation Battalion, 101st CAB, 101st Abn. Div. commander, sling load and air assault operations are also skills that involve close partnerships.
"These relationships are what mark us as the gold standard bearers," said Yastrzemsky. "Fostering air-to-ground relationships together, over multiple iterations, and critiquing ourselves along the way, ensures that we are better trained and ready to do the job, whenever and wherever we're asked to do it. And, no one does it better than the 101st."
As the air assault operation began, helicopter by helicopter, forces swept into the snow covered landing zones and squads of ground-troops quickly fanned out to secure their objectives. Capitalizing on the surprise and shock effect, the 3rd BCT Soldiers rapidly built combat power to close with and destroy the opposing forces. Simultaneously, AH-64 Apache helicopters and artillery engaged the enemies.
"This training is important because it tests all levels of leadership across the division to come together and get the mission done," said Spc. Dustin Frost, an infantryman with Company C, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. "From aviation down to us, the infantry."
Sgt. Alfred Leyva, a team leader serving alongside Frost, said that the operation provided him with the ability to assess his Soldiers' training and gain confidence in their abilities.
"We've practiced as a team, as a squad, and now we're going to incorporate all of the training we've learned into future operations," said Leyva.
Yastrzemsky added that practice makes perfect.
"We're going to make mistakes during this operation, and we encourage our team to make mistakes during practice, so we can learn and grow as an organization," Yastrzemsky said. "But we have to be ruthless in the sense of how we critique ourselves internally so we can make the most of every iteration. Establishing relationships, executing to a standard, critiquing ourselves, and improving upon every repetition is how we measure success."
A week before conducting the operation 3rd BCT brought together battalion and brigade command teams from across the division for a senior leader development program to learn the operating procedures defined in the "Gold Book," the manual of standards for air assault operations.
The brigade also conducted a combined arms rehearsal prior to the operation.