By Sgt. Derek Kuhn, 40th Public Affairs DetachmentFebruary 24, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C., Feb. 22, 2011 -- After almost 10 years of deployments, the 82nd Airborne division conducted a training exercise that was all about getting back to the basics of parachute assault and full-spectrum operations skills that leaders said might have atrophied.
Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division and two of its brigade combat teams conducted a Joint Operations Access Exercise, or JOAX, Feb. 8-16, to test their ability to jump into a hostile environment and conduct combat operations. Also participating in the JOAX were Company M, 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment and the Air Force, which provided air support.
Jumping from a plane to charge the enemy battlefield has been the 82nd's meat and potatoes mission since World War II, and leaders said that's what they are training for in the JOAX.
"By performing these exercises we can build muscle memory", said Maj. Christopher Hossfeld, the 82nd Airborne Division chief of operations. "Even if the focus is on one brigade combat team, the whole division has an opportunity to learn, from the individual paratrooper all the way up the chain of command."
A lot of planning and coordination goes into synchronizing the many moving pieces such as the division headquarters, brigade combat teams, a combat aviation brigade, a fires brigade, support transportation units, and countless Air Force aircraft, Hossfeld said.
"Planning for this JOAX has been going on since September," he said. "The Air Force has been critical to our success. Their planners have been amazing."
The exercise has given everyone involved a chance to train in a number of areas from the airborne infantry jumping from a C-17 Globemaster to the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System firing on target.
"The JOAX was meant to showcase the brigade's ability to conduct a forcible entry into an airfield, seize initial assault objectives, and expand the lodgment to allow for follow on forces to continue operations," said Maj. Jason Brown, the public affairs officer for 3rd Brigade Cobat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
Brown said the JOAX was essential in helping the paratroopers get back to doing what they do best.
"We have found that over the last nine years that our Army has been at war, some of our basic infantry skills have begun to erode," Brown said. "So by doing this [exercise], we are getting back to basics."
With an exercise like the JOAX, 3rd BCT really wanted to up the complexity by having a lot of moving parts, said Maj. Michael Owens, a fire support officer for 3rd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div.
"We really wanted to maximize the training value to the Soldiers [involved]," Owens said. "We were looking for new ways to challenge them."
Some of the events used to challenge the paratroopers were an airborne infiltration with more than 1,700 paratroopers jumping, a non-combatant evacuation exercise, and some key leader engagements, Brown said.
Logistics also had a chance to practice putting their pieces of the puzzle in place. Multiple units made up the effort supporting the 82nd at the Intermediate Staging Base located at Camp Mackall.
The 11th Transportation Battalion from Fort Story, Va., the 689th Rapid Port Opening Element from Fort Eustis, Va., and the 615th Contingency Response Wing from Travis Air Force Base, Calif, all supported the division during this JOAX. Their jobs included logistics, tracking vehicles and equipment, receiving, staging, and then out loading as needed, according to the needs of the division.
Maj. Ryan King, detachment commander for the 689th RPOE spoke about the benefits of working with different branches of the military.
"Its great for all of us to get to know the other services and support. If something does happen, we are on 12-hour notice, so getting to know each other in this training really helps," King said.
An exercise as large as the JOAX is bound to have some hiccups, but the positive aspects of the JOAX were evident, Brown said.
"Our noncommissioned officer leadership really shined during the JOAX," Brown said. "They [the NCOs] really proved that they are the backbone of the Army and the brigade."
Their expertise led to "our paratroopers knowing how to shoot, move and communicate better than any other troopers in the world," he added.
"We are equipped, trained and ready to do any mission our nation calls on us to do at any time," Brown said of the paratroopers of 3rd BCT, 82nd ABN Div.