FORT BRAGG, N.C. — As the home of the 82nd Airborne, it is not unusual to see paratroopers floating from the sky but a 10,000-pound heavy artillery weapon attached to four parachutes might turn a few heads. This M777A2 Howitzer “heavy drop”, March 15, was just a small part of a joint exercise ensuring combat readiness of soldiers and Marines.
The 82nd Airborne Division’s 18th Fires Brigade (ABN) hosted Marines from the 10th Marine Regiment and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Camp Lejeune, N.C., in a joint training exercise, Mar. 11 to Mar. 18. Within the exercise was a Joint Interoperability Live Fire Exercise (JILFX), a four-day event that focused on joint communications and fire mission processing. The week gave Paratroopers and Marines the opportunity to work together in a training environment that would prepare them for joint operations in combat.
“Coming to Fort Bragg is a great opportunity for joint training and it gives us the ability to do things we can’t do on Camp Lejeune. Here, we have to opportunity to learn how to support each other in combat and integrate our fires, which as an artillery element is crucial,” said Col. Brad Hall, 10th Marine Regiment, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Though the current fiscal environment was a limiting factor in this year’s exercise, the training was deemed a success by 18th Fires Brigade (ABN) Commander Col. Robert Morschauser and Hall. Even with time and funding constraints, Paratroopers were able to focus on mission-critical training and learning to work in a joint environment.
In an effort to maximize training time, 18th Fires Brigade used their time in the field to conduct a number of concurrent tasks such as Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) training, Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) training and small arms ranges.
The training was cut by more than two-thirds of its original planned days, leaving only enough time for mission-critical training. It was originally scheduled to be a 14-day training mission that would cost approximately $140,000. After fiscal conservatives it was changed to an eight-day training mission costing $77,000. Finally, it ended up as a four-day training mission costing $37,000.
“In order to save money, our units stayed in static locations instead of moving around the battle field in order to conserve fuel and save money. We also utilized Marine aircraft to move to and from main post to the field to save on fuel costs,” said Morschauser, a Yonkersite.
Certain training events could be left out or rescheduled to a later date, but not certifications and maintaining serviceable equipment. These elements were crucial to mission readiness and could not be cut from the budget.
“Maintaining certifications and serviceability of equipment are our must-haves for us,” said Morschauser. “We can cut other things but we have to stay ready to deploy at a moment's notice,” he added.
Despite communication hiccups between the two branches, the 18th Fires BDE was still able to meet their training objectives and the goals of testing the equipment for interoperability performance. It was valuable and worthwhile training for the Paratroopers and Marines.
“Conducting our standard training and being able to introduce something new, like joint operations, really allows us as Marines to broaden our scope and I think this exercise has been an outstanding success,” said Hall.
The joint training exercises varied each day but one consistent factor remained, intensity. During a two-gun air assault mission, with Marine helicopters emplacing two howitzers in an open field, soldiers had only 45 minutes to prepare, position, fire and extract the weapons. Such a small time frame required positive communication between Marine pilots and paratroopers on the ground and showcased the tremendous benefit of training together to make these missions successful.
“When we go to our next fight, just as we did with our last fight, it is all going to be a joint effort. We need to know how to train, work and fight together and that is what this training is all about,” said Morschauser about paratroopers training with Marines.
As part of the 82nd Airborne Division’s Global Response Force, 18th Fires must be prepared to perform under a number of conditions, to include field artillery roles and serving as a rapid reaction element in times of domestic crisis with local law enforcement. By training in a joint environment alongside Marines, there are lessons learned that provide both paratroopers and Marines the experience necessary to win the next fight when the nation calls.
With live-fire exercises, interoperability training, air assault raids and a number of other training opportunities, the week-long joint training exercise was a true representation of mixed services training as they would fight. The knowledge and experience gained by paratroopers and Marines in a joint environment is an invaluable tool for future combat missions and fosters positive relationships between the two services, and what better platform for this kind of training than Fort Bragg, home of the Airborne and the 82nd Airborne Division.
“It was great to see Marines and soldiers working together and staying on target,” said Morschauser about the week-long training event. “We are working very hard to keep our soldiers ready. Our soldiers deserve that, and our nation deserves that,” he said.
Spc. Jeffrey Moore, the author, is from the 10th Press Camp HQ, Fort Bragg, NC. He wrote a story about the 82nd Airborne Division’s 18th Fires Brigade (ABN), whose commander, Col. Robert Morschauser is from Yonkers, NY.