By Maj. Michael J Weisman, U.S. Army EuropeOctober 22, 2014
GRAFENWOEHR TRAINING AREA, Germany (Oct. 22, 2014) -- Approximately 90 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade's 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment conducted an airborne operation into Campia Turzi, Romania, yesterday, to start the field portion of an Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise, referred to as an EDRE.
The exercise tests the paratroopers' ability to plan and execute full-spectrum operations on short notice as the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe. As such, the brigade provides ready troops to deploy within 18 hours, anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa or Central Command areas of responsibility.
Some 24 hours prior, instead of reporting to work for scheduled training, the squadron instead received notification from the brigade headquarters they would be deploying to Romania the next morning. The squadron then conducted mission analysis and began the orders process, drew necessary weapons and equipment, and headed to Grafenwoehr Army Airfield to don parachutes, conduct mission briefs and load the awaiting U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft.
"We started with a warning order at [6 a.m.]," said Maj. Matthew Work, the brigade's executive officer, referring to the surprise notification. "This is part of building the readiness culture we have in the 173rd [Airborne Brigade], and building upon what we've been asked to do for U.S. Army Europe in expanding our EDRE capability."
After three hours in the air, approximately 900 kilometers east, the paratroopers jumped in all the equipment and supplies they would need for the next three days. From the drop zone, the paratroopers made linkup with Romanian troops on the ground, who played the role of host-nation forces in the scenario the paratroopers are operating in.
"These guys are thinking about once they leave the aircraft, what they have to do when they hit the ground to be able to assemble quickly and move out to their objective," said Sgt. Maj. Steven Campbell, the brigade's operations non-commissioned officer in charge. "It gets right at the heart of being ready to go at a moment's notice. Once they conduct the airborne assault, the commanders and leaders will be challenged because they'll be deprived of a lot of things -- sleep, food -- they're going to move long distances. The commander will have to take the intelligence he receives along the way and make critical decisions, which will drive where their unit goes."
As part of the EDRE, the brigade purposefully introduced stressors such as the uncertain environment, long foot movements and lack of sleep, all with an active opposing force in the area.
"Part of this EDRE is having our Soldiers being comfortable with the unknown," explained Work. "We are going to get our leaders and Soldiers to a point where they are tired and uncomfortable. They're going to deal with the unknown and cause people to think differently under stress and duress."
This is leader training all throughout, from the private all the way through the organization," added Work. "We have a number of scenarios that are set up to test leaders and help them think through problems. It's a phenomenal event that stresses the organization."
For the brigade, the execution of the drill is the culmination of months of effort, coordinating with the Romanian military and U.S. Embassy in Bucharest to provide tough, realistic training for the paratroopers.
"We've worked closely with our Romanian allies over the weeks leading up to this exercise," said Capt. David Dean, a brigade logistical planner who liaised with Romanian military forces in planning the exercise. Their professionalism and efforts in planning this event made this possible."
The EDRE is the first in a series of planned exercises over the next two months involving troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, alongside their NATO allies in Romania. The exercises are a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, demonstrating U.S. commitment to NATO collective defense as well as building interoperability with allied forces.
Romania has been and continues to be a strong NATO ally," said Dean. "An exercise likes this demonstrates that and sets the stage for a series of future exercises to build on."
The EDRE comes just two weeks after the brigade finished its six-month deployment to Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The "Sky Soldiers" of the 173rd Airborne Brigade transferred responsibility for that portion of the Atlantic Resolve mission to Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
"It's all about readiness," said Campbell. "They have to be ready. We don't know where we're going next, but we know we have to be ready at a moment's notice to answer the call."