ISIOLO, Kenya – U.S. Army paratroopers with Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (The Rock), 173rd Airborne Brigade, recently traveled to Kenya to participate in exercise Justified Accord 23 (JA23). JA23 is U.S. Africa Command’s largest exercise in East Africa.
Led by U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF), this multinational exercise brings together more than 20 countries from four continents to increase partner readiness for peacekeeping missions, crisis response and humanitarian assistance.
Centered around the Kenyan School of Infantry in Isiolo, Kenya, Rock paratroopers joined with infantrymen from Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda to hone their skills. The beginning of the training saw paratroopers developing their skills on the range and in the shoot house, practicing how to enter and clear a room.
Later in the exercise, this training was put to the test as paratroopers moved into multinational squad live-fires.
Aside from the M240 machine guns, M249 squad automatic weapons, M4 carbines and M17 service pistol, the unit also received training with non-lethal weapons.
Non-lethal training is essential for the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s North and West Africa Crisis Response Force (NARF) responsibilities. NARF is under the command and control of SETAF-AF and utilizes 173rd Airborne Brigade units as a decisive, forward-postured, quick response element for crisis-related missions.
“Non-lethal weapons training will enhance our abilities to respond to a NARF crisis,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dylon Bunch, squad leader with Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (The Rock), 173rd Airborne Brigade. “If we are responding to a humanitarian crisis or peacekeeping mission, we must have the tools in our arsenal to use non-lethal force to accomplish the mission.”
From non-lethal shotguns to claymores, paratroopers expressed they were grateful to receive the training.
JA23 culminated with a multinational field training exercise (FTX). The final event saw U.S. paratroopers working directly with East African partners during a simulated crisis response.
The exercise scenario utilized a military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) site, complete with multiple metal cargo containers, some of which were two stories high. The multinational force was tasked with clearing this simulated village of enemy combatants and were provided intelligence that non-government organizations were in the vicinity to provide aid to displaced villagers.
Combined units patrolled building to building and door to door in order to clear the village of adversaries, all while taking small-arms fire by opposition forces using blank firing adapters. They also made sure not to target any non-combatant villagers or those providing humanitarian assistance.
“Being stationed in Italy and part of the Army’s contingency response force in Europe, as well as the NARF, is a unique and challenging experience,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Matthew Serrate, platoon leader with Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (The Rock), 173rd Airborne Brigade.
“I love the fact we’re out here to build relationships and train with partner nations. It’s paramount to what we do as paratroopers,” he added.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army's contingency response force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to the United States European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility. Forward deployed across Italy and Germany, the brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build partnerships and strengthen the alliance.
U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) is responsible for achieving U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Army Campaign Plan objectives while conducting all U.S. Army operations, exercises and security cooperation on the African continent.