By Sgt. Duncan Brennan, 101st CAB Public AffairsAugust 22, 2014
FORT POLK, La., (Aug. 22, 2014) -- Air crews from 6th Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), flew in support of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), during their rotation to the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., Aug. 14, 2014.
The flights were part of the training for future engagements that the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, known as a CAB, might be called to fight in.
"This was a joint forced entry," said Capt. Ross Skilling, assistant operations officer, 6th Battalion, 101st CAB. "It utilizes combined arms in order to synchronize coordination into taking an objective. It deals with the coordination from everything from infantry, artillery, sustainment, aviation, and can involve the Air Force or other services. The difference between a joint forced entry and an air assault, is that different branches of service take part in it. In the 101st Airborne, air assault is our specialty, so that was our primary means of conducting this mission."
When dealing with dangerous situations, a lot of planning has to go into ensuring that the air crews and passengers are achieving the mission in the safest way possible. In a combat environment, planning an operation of this complexity does not always allow for the luxury of time.
"From the receipt of the order to execution is supposed to be 96 hours," said Skilling. "Ours was a little less than that. Prior to coming to JRTC ( the Joint Readiness Training Center), we did a lot of coordination and created a plan to plan. That was essential in making this a success."
With the mission cycle compressed, and so much at stake, a lot of time is put into planning and rehearsals. Since the mission was at night, having air crews that were rested would be a significant consideration.
"It is flat-out harder to fly at night," said Maj. Chad Corrigan, operations officer, 6th Bn., 101st CAB. "You have to be more vigilant when you make your plan, to plan that you protect the company, platoon and crew members' time so those Soldiers are as rested as you can get them. You don't want them standing around wasting their time, because you don't know what you're doing. You want to have a plan and rehearse the plan, so that when it's go time, your crews are sharp and can execute safely."
Soldiers with 6th Bn., 101st CAB, are no strangers to operating during night hours. It is a part of normal training and certification. There is a difference when they're flying over terrain that is unfamiliar, especially when they have other factors that increase the difficulty.
"Missions are a lot easier to do back home," said Skilling. "You're flying routes you already know, and going to landing zones that you've been to a hundred times. Here, you're learning new rules, and you have role players involved. The Joint Readiness Training Center does a good job of making everything as realistic as possible."
The training done at JRTC will help shape how air assaults and joint forced entries are conducted on the future, as Army aviation continues to adapt to new missions.
"I think these operations and exercises make a huge difference in our ability to fight future conflicts," said Corrigan. "Our ability to use helicopters fits with our doctrinal structure of how we're supposed to fight in the Army. Our doctrine is built around the concept of seizing and maintaining the initiative over the enemy. Using helicopters to move, think and counter punch faster than our enemies, is what we do at the 101st Airborne Division."