The sky was dark as 106 Soldiers began to arrive at their Company Operations Facility (COF) for a formation at two o’clock in the morning on May 17, 2021.
Cougar, the call sign given to Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment “No Slack”, 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne”, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), received the call less than 14 hours earlier that they were selected to execute a level three emergency deployment readiness exercise (EDRE).
“Operation Eagle Savage Strike was a great test for our Soldiers. It’s one thing to talk readiness, it’s quite another to live it,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Da Silva, the commanding officer of 2nd Bn., 327th Inf. Regt., 1st BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT). “Cougar Company showed everyone what it means to live readiness. They alerted, marshaled, and deployed within 24 hours executing an air assault into a full company operation. We learned some great lessons that will improve the program and our company but the greatest lesson we learned is that our Soldiers have the heart, grit, and desire to execute any mission asked of them. This program will build the culture of readiness this Division is known for and will continue to deliver for the nation.”
This operation integrated multiple enablers and synchronized warfighting functions to test the deployable readiness of an individual unit. An EDRE of this magnitude had not been validated within the division in recent years, so throughout the operation that this was a priority and planners in G3/5/7 wanted to validate the proof of concept.
“We determined HHBN would be best postured to provide operational command, classes of supply, health service support, and planning resources, to ensure the deployable unit could focus on their role in the operation and execute,” shared Lt. Col. Matthew Crawford, commander of the 101st Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion. “This method mirrors what our Division and the talented civilians at Fort Campbell would offer should the Nation call.”
No Slack had key leaders and staff arrive on Sunday to begin the hasty military decision making process for the operation, upon notification from the brigade headquarters. “Guidance from brigade was specific and controlled, so it was clear what needed to be executed,” said Capt. Sean Paradise, the assistant operations officer for No Slack.
Upon arrival to the COF, Cougar took accountability, the G1 ran a query to inspect their soldier readiness brief packets, the company issued weapons systems and night vision devices. Squads and platoons conducted pre-planned rehearsals and met on Bastogne Field for a manifest where the company received a safety brief and went through mock cold load helicopter door loading procedures.
Cougar was then transported to Hangar 6, where the CH-47 Chinook and two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters waited to transport and insert Cougar on Bastogne Helicopter Landing Zone via a tactically cross-loaded air assault in three lifts.
Once inserted into the training area, the company had a mission to attack to seize Objective Elk. Cougar maintained communication and navigated through the forest, as they maneuvered toward their objective. The dismounted movement allowed for the operational command to assess and deliver feedback on terrain association and movement techniques.
When discussing areas to improve at the platoon level, Sgt. First Class Matthew Medina, the platoon sergeant of 3rd Platoon, shared the feedback he received from Maj. Don Irwin, “it was evident that we definitely need to prepare for whether the enemy jams us. We can’t just use wrist GPS devices, and it is important for us to train on these perishable skills to ensure we are disciplined in training.”
The exercise culminated with a qualification range to certify each Soldier on their individual weapons system.
EDREs intend for units to ensure we are properly preparing our units and facilitating a method to test those processes to validate that any unit within the 101st is ready to answer an unexpected call with the tenacity to fight, and win, tonight.
“I was very grateful that our company had the opportunity to execute the EDRE, because it was a great opportunity to kick the tires of the organization and see exactly where we are at,” said Capt. James Fiser, commander of Charlie Company. “Having a short notification time allowed us to see the most genuine picture of our baseline capabilities and under a short timeline, it forces leaders at every echelon – team leaders, squad leaders, platoon level-leaders to – harness the load together as a cohesive team, because you can’t be successful any other way.”