By Sgt. A.M. LaVeyNovember 3, 2014
CAMPIA TURZII, Romania (Nov. 3, 2014) -- U.S. Army paratroopers from the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade parachuted into Bogata, Romania, Oct. 22 to begin the week-long field portion of their Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise.
The Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise, referred to as an EDRE, is a no notice, rapid deployment exercise designed to test the brigade's ability to alert, marshal and deploy, while serving as the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force, in Europe.
With the squadron assuming the brigade's "rotational [Contingency Response Force] responsibilities, we have to be ready to go anywhere in the world in 18 hours," said Lt. Col. Kyle Reed, the squadron's commander.
Reed said that although the brigade is within the "European theater of operations, we are a force that can go to Africa and the [U.S. Central Command's] area of responsibility. We have the capability to react to threats quickly."
When the paratroopers arrived for physical training the morning of Oct. 20th, they received the alert and immediately prepared for the deployment. The deployment sequence continued until the combat-loaded paratroopers flew approximately 900 kilometers east of Grafenwoehr, Germany. There two U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft delivered more than 80 paratroopers into freshly-harvested cornfields in the Transylvanian mountainous countryside, while American and Romanian government and military officials looked on.
"This exercise sends a message to the world that we are ready and have the strategic capability to reach out, not only to our NATO allies, but also to eastern Europe," said Reed. "If there is a threat, we can react to that threat and we can reinforce or assist our NATO alliance partners with any concerns that they are experiencing."
On the ground, Romanian special forces soldiers from the Romanian Land Forces' 6th Special Operations Brigade, served as the opposing force.
"We created all kinds of hard scenarios for the Americans, to make sure that the exercise was as realistic as possible," said Romanian army Lt. Stef, a special forces officer and a liaison to the American troops.
"After we conducted the EDRE, and landed here in Romania, we moved off the drop zone to conduct a follow-on mission against [fictional] enemies over the next few days," said Reed. "We conducted multiple raids, multiple ambushes and sensitive target analysis ... so that we could bring back security to the region."
Training included local leader engagement, a stress shoot competition after a forced march and a lot of land navigation. The paratroopers were on constant patrol: living and training in the cold, wet, foggy mountains, with little food and even less sleep.
"Fatigue affected us for sure, and we were limited on [Meals Ready to Eat] and on water," said 2nd Lt. Marvin Gonzalez, a platoon leader with Troop B. "Despite that, I was really proud of my team leaders, my section leaders and their ability to motivate our guys to accomplish the mission. We are ready for whatever the Army throws at us."
Fatigue and privation were part of the training, designed to provide positive stressors to the troops in the field.
"This type of exercise pushes troopers to the limit," said Reed. "Not only physically, but mentally as well, and he terrain here in Romania is definitely challenging with the changes in elevation as well as the amount of missions that we had to accomplish."
The EDRE fell under Operation Atlantic Resolve, and built upon the individual and collective training the squadron conducted this year, in places like the Baltic states, Poland and Germany.
"The great thing about the 173rd is that we have a lot of [multinational partners], so we get many opportunities to train for real-world missions," said Gonzalez. "We are learning from one another and I look forward to continue these relationships in the future."
And the Romanian soldiers enjoyed sharing their training areas and increasing their mutual capabilities with their American partners.
"It was a great operation and we hope to continue to have good operations between our two states," said Stef.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, has multiple training exercises scheduled in Romania and Eastern eastern Europe in the upcoming months.
"We had a great experience in Romania [and] I look forward to training with our Romanian allies again," said Reed. "We are a better trained force, not only with the events that transpired here, but also the train-up leading to it I know that when we go home, we will take these lessons learned and apply them in future operations."