Meticulously placed cards bearing symbols and acronyms lay across intersecting squares of parachute cord on the grey concrete of the pole barns. The wind drifts under the sheet metal roof, unimpeded by walls, and pushes gently on the paper markers placed all over the map that is laid out before hundreds of booted feet.
One by one, officers and noncommissioned officers step onto the sand table and brief the Task Force Falcon staff, commanders and attached enablers on the actions of the enemy, terrain and weather of the area of operation, movements of friendly forces, areas of surveillance, and targets for indirect fire weapons.
Finally, at P-hour on April 13, C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules engines roared through the new-fallen darkness as the equipment and paratrooper-laden aircraft flew over Holland Drop Zone. U.S. and Royal Air Force planes began dropping thousands of American and British jumpers.
The combined arms rehearsal is nothing new to the assembled service members. Most have participated in them or observed them before. However, uniformity was wholly disrupted by a myriad of blue, tan, brown, green and gray uniforms. For many, this particular briefing was different for the variety of soldiers, airmen and Marines, both American and British, with interests in this exercise.
After more than two years of planning, the routine Joint Operational Access Exercise held on Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was now a Combined-JOAX, as the 82nd Airborne Division’s interoperability program reached a major milestone in its efforts to incorporate a British battle group into one of the brigade combat teams.
“The combined nature is the most obvious difference,” said Col. Joseph Ryan, commander of the Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team. “This one is working with our brothers from … the 3rd Battalion, [The Parachute Regiment] of the 16 Air Assault Brigade from the U.K.”
“We’ve had about 800 or 900 of them over here for … about six weeks, conducting an intensive train up.”
Beginning in mid-March, the task force partnered up for the typical training, ranges, mission planning and rehearsals that go into preparation for large exercises. Day-to-day, they collaborated in the headquarters, dining facilities, motor pools and clinics. Not simply observing or sitting on the sidelines, both organizations labored to smooth out the battle rhythms.
Finally, at P-hour on April 13, C-17 Globemaster III and C-130 Hercules engines roared through the new-fallen darkness as the equipment and paratrooper-laden aircraft flew over Holland Drop Zone. U.S. and Royal Air Force planes began dropping thousands of American and British jumpers. The largest bilateral exercise Fort Bragg has seen in nearly 20 years had begun.