News: Black Falcons conduct heavy drop exercise
Story by Sgt. Kissta DiGregorio
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Personnel on the ground looked to the skies on a rainy afternoon searching for the source of the unmistakable sound of a large aircraft. Within seconds, a lone C-17 parted the clouds.
When the aircraft was directly overhead, a huge pallet loaded down with a howitzer and a Humvee flew from the cargo door, followed minutes later by dozens of 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers.
Paratroopers with B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conducted an evaluated heavy drop mission on Oct. 14 to simulate the battery's role in a brigade level airfield seizure.
The battalion performs heavy drop missions once a month to maintain their airborne artillery skills as well as brigade-level Joint Forcible Entry Exercises every two months.
During the evaluation exercise, the heavy rain and wind made the jump difficult, but the real work for the paratroopers began once they hit the ground.
As soon as they landed, the Soldiers were timed and evaluated on how quickly they could pack their parachutes, secure their location, unload and assemble the howitzer and get the gun into position.
"When all of that is in place, we're ready to fire," said Lt. Col. Jeff Sanborn, 2nd Battalion's commanding officer.
The men worked quickly. Just minutes after landing, they ran to the heavy drop one by one to begin ripping away the paper and cardboard that had cushioned the pallet's impact.
Some actually used a sledgehammer to loosen boards supporting the barrel of the howitzer so they could begin moving the weapon.
Up to seven men were required to move the more than two-ton artillery piece onto its base plate.
Simultaneously, Soldiers were setting up security for the area and the fire direction center was working to contact forward observers to receive the mission and get the correct coordinates for their target, said Staff Sgt. Carlos Navarro, a platoon sergeant.
Once the coordinates were found, the gunner dialed in the howitzer's telescope and the team was ready to return fire.
The mission continued into the night; the men relocated several times, securing their new locations and conducting fire missions against "opposing forces."
The evaluators for the exercise were Soldiers from 18th Fires Brigade.
"This is the first external evaluation for the battalion in several years," said Sanborn. "It's always us looking at ourselves. It's good to get others with different experiences to help us learn and grow."