FORT BRAGG, N.C. - At least 30 paratroopers from the British army reserves’ 4th Battalion arrived at Fort Bragg July 9 to take part in two weeks of training with members of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command here.
The unit, known as 4th Para, is part of the British reserves, known as the Territorial Army.
The training at Fort Bragg is part of a reciprocal training relationship between the two units that is geared toward ensuring interoperability and common procedures among allies who are often deployed together, according to officials at USACAPOC.
The units last met and trained together during USACAPOC’s participation in Operation Airborne Normandy, which took place in both the United Kingdom and France, as part of the D-Day invasion’s 67th anniversary commemoration.
According to Lt. Col. Gerald Ostlund, public affairs officer for USACAPOC, their British counterparts are experiencing various phases of training during their stay at Fort Bragg. Some of the training includes rappelling, the “Nasty Nick” obstacle course, weapons training, dismounted combat training, civil affairs training, along with airborne operations from various aircraft.
The training at Fort Bragg serves as pre-deployment training for the British paratroopers, who are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in the fall.
“We have a long relationship with 4th Para, they’re a part of the reserve in the United Kingdom, so we have a relationship with them that goes back a number of years because we’ve trained with them at times. They deploy with our troops and we deploy with theirs, so it’s good to get to know how we communicate, procedures that we take and so this is all part of that relationship,” Ostlund said.
He said the Soldiers on both sides, were enjoying the training.
“Every one of them has great big smiles on their faces,” Ostlund said. “A big part of coming here is that they don’t get to do this much in the UK. They jump maybe once every six months. They’ve done more jumps here than they’ve probably done in the last year and they’re getting lots of weapons training because we have a lot of training areas here at Fort Bragg. So they’re pretty excited about it.”
British Pvt. William Blackwell agreed.
“It’s fantastic. The facilities are absolutely incredible and we couldn’t have asked for a better place,” Blackwell said. “The heat is pretty outrageous, but it’s something we have to cope with, especially the humidity. But it enhances the training, especially prior to deploying to warmer areas like Afghanistan.”
The unit’s commander, Capt. Paul Finn, said his men truly enjoy the training they are receiving, especially since they’re not able to receive this type of training in their home country.
“The guys are loving it, they are absolutely loving it. There are long days, but it’s why we joined,” he said. “That’s the nice thing about coming here, is that while we aspire to do more training, Americans have more assets and, dare I say, you have better weather than we do, so here, we don’t have to wait around for the weather to clear.”
Finn said he thinks the most valuable thing his unit can take away from the training is the experience and the opportunity to see how the American Soldiers work.
“The only time we really see the Americans is when we’re fighting alongside them, so it’s nice to have a bit of down time with them.”
According to Sgt. 1st Class Sean Bowers, USACAPOC’s operations and training noncommissioned officer, the opportunity allowed them to see that the British paratroopers are very similar to their American counterparts.
“I joke around a lot with them and they return the favor. They’re sort of like the U.S. Army, in that they have camaraderie just like our Soldiers,” Bowers said.
Ostlund said the British Soldiers are like the U.S. Soldiers in other ways.
“These are great Soldiers and they’re having a good time,” Ostlund said. “We’re honored to be able to help them get ready for their deployment that’s coming up. This is part of their pre-deployment training and the fact that they chose to come here and train with us is a real honor for us.”
Following their training, the British paratroopers will return to the United Kingdom for several months before deploying to Afghanistan.”
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