By Lt. Col. John HallMarch 16, 2018
POSTONJA, Slovenia -- To fight a modern war takes more than infantry, artillery, reconnaissance and engineers. Even a highly deployable fighting force like the 173rd Airborne Brigade has to get to the battle and be sustained in the fight. This means having riggers to pack the parachutes and rig the equipment to be dropped, mechanics to keep the vehicles in top condition, and fuelers to keep those vehicles running, or even the "water dogs" to purify thousands of gallons of water a day to keep the paratroopers fighting.
When the Sky Soldier combat forces are decisively engaging the enemy, the support troops must be prepared to defend themselves, even as they are helping the brigade to win the battle. If they cannot defend while they sustain, valuable infantrymen must be pulled from the line to guard them - this is not the Sky Soldier way. Every paratrooper is a warrior who can employ any weapon. This is accomplished with tough, realistic training, in the rain, and mud, digging fighting positions, stringing wire, and developing a battle plan to defeat any enemy who dares to approach their perimeter while they are packing chutes, turning wrenches, cooking meals and pumping fuel.
This past week, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Support Battalion traveled to Pocek Range, where six different companies completed live fire base defense training in day and night environments. The BSB, commanded by Lt. Col. Christopher Baker deployed the battalion to the Slovenian training area where they created a defensive perimeter, dug in fighting positions for the M2 .50 Caliber and the M240 heavy machine guns, and support by fire positions for their quick reaction forces.
"We have a unique opportunity to train here in Slovenia on force-on-force, as well as live fire conditions with our Brigade Support Battalion," stated 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander Col. Jay Bartholomees. The 173rd BSB is partnering with Soldiers from the Slovenian Army to conduct Exercise Lipizzaner IV along with Echo Company of the 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion.
"This training area has been incredible for us," added Lt. Col. Christopher Baker, the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion commander, "We are partnered with the Slovenian Army's 157th Logistics Regiment, where we are training in a valley where we can conduct multiple scenarios, using multiple weapon systems with the added ability to maneuver on the terrain".
When the paratroopers arrived, the ground was snow covered and frozen. Undaunted, they unpacked their entrenching tools, shovels and determination to prepare for the coming fight. In a matter of hours, the positions were improved, camouflaged, and manned with paratroopers drawing up range cards and identifying targets.
"This entire exercise is great because they have tied in every aspect of multi-echelon training from the individual paratrooper skills all the way up to testing leaders in their ability to think under fire" said Bartholomees. "They are working individual marksmanship, improvement of their fighting positions, but also supporting call for fire missions and ultimately testing the company as well as the battalion level mission command system".
Employing the "crawl, walk, run" training model, the companies trained on infantry tactics, crew drills, and communication as they worked through dry fire and blank fire, leading to the intent of the training, the base defense with smoke, artillery simulators and live ammunition. The pounding of the heavy machine guns provided the baseline, the rat-a-tat-tat of the M4 provided the rhythm, and the vocals of the warriors calling out enemy movement and their destruction completed the arrangement. When all of the enemy forces were destroyed, the guns were silenced, and the paratroopers evaluated their performance.
Bartholomees concluded, "Conducting unit area defense is one of their mission essential tasks. They have all of their companies out here to include the rigger company out of Aviano. Each of the companies are rotating through their defensive positons, just as they would in a brigade support area, supporting our fight. As the Brigade Combat Team pushes the fight forward via airborne assault and air assault, the brigade support area is set up by our 173rd Brigade Support Battalion and are prepared to defend their positions while supporting the forward fight"
Next week, the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion will be back in the rigger shack, carefully packing the parachute for your next jump, and the mechanic will be back in the garage maintaining services on your fighting vehicle. However, in the back of their minds, they are not only thinking about getting you to the fight, but also, how they too will be required to defeat the enemy in the deep fight - with heavy machine guns, individual weapons and hand to hand combat, if necessary.