News: 173rd Airborne Brigade conducts live fire exercise in Poland
Story by Master Sgt. Claudia Burcham
DRAWSKO-POMORSKIE, Poland — Paratroopers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade conducted an ambush live-fire range in the northern forests of Poland on June 17.
The “Sky Soldiers” of the 173rd have been training in Poland alongside NATO forces from Canada’s Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the Polish army’s 6th Airborne Brigade.
Spc. Michael Cole, of Booneville, New York, is the commander’s radio-telephone operator for Company C and controlled the automatic engagement targets for the range. As the paratroopers assembled explosives and prepared camouflage, Cole explained the process.
“The patrol will move forward to where the enemy is crossing a road and set up a rallying point,” said Cole. “A leader’s recon will then survey the area and the platoon leader will stage his right and left security and bring everybody up on line. When they are ready, they will set in a Claymore mine. When I bring up the targets, they will set off the Claymore and conduct an ambush.”
The Claymore mine fires 700 steel balls in a wide arc at enemy personnel. In this case, it is detonated when the patrol leader intends to initiate the ambush.
Once the patrol entered the forest, the wooded area gave the paratroopers ample opportunity for cover and concealment. The paratroopers worked seamlessly as a team to set up their perimeter and take their fighting positions.
Cole, who enlisted a little more than two years ago, stood nearby with the controls for the pop-up targets in hand. He said safety is paramount on a live-fire range.
“We have limits marked where everyone should be on line. No one should be either too far ahead or too far back,” said Cole. “We have two safety officers here—the company safety and the individual who is actually setting in the Claymores, so we can make sure everything is done to standard. Basically in a range like this everyone has to be their own safety officer, so if anyone sees anything going wrong they should call it out. Everyone is a safety officer, technically, on a live-fire range.”
Once the Claymore went off and Cole popped up the targets, the paratroopers dropped the enemy with bursts of machine gun and small-arms fire. After the ceasefire was called and weapons cleared, paratroopers moved forward quickly through the ambush line, secured the area and searched enemy dead for critical intelligence. On a training mannequin they found papers showing enemy surveillance efforts, which were noted and destroyed.
Cole, who has been with the 173rd Airborne Brigade for six months, described his time here training with the Polish and Canadian counterparts as a unique experience.
“I don’t think I’d get this type of training anywhere else, especially if I was stationed back in the states,” said Cole.
Approximately 600 paratroopers from the brigade are in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as part of an unscheduled land-forces exercise to demonstrate commitment to NATO obligations and sustain interoperability with allied forces