News: Paratroopers evacuate civilians during joint exercise
Story by Spc. Cody Thompson
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Paratroopers from the Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, participated in a Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation during a Joint Operation Access Exercise on Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 15.
The 3rd BCT Paratroopers, who are known as the Panthers, rescued role-players by land and air across the Sicily Drop Zone.
“We are conducting a Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation, which involves extracting non-combatants, nonessential military personnel, select host-nation citizens, and third world country nationals, whose lives are in danger,” Maj. Brandon Darby, the executive officer for the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, said.
“Our main focus is to fully protect them [the civilians] until we can escort them to a secure environment,” the Stockton, Calif., native said. “This mission gives us the opportunity to give them safety and security.”
As the mission began, the Panthers rushed toward the extraction aircraft, making haste in the otherwise still night.
“The neoexercise began when we prepared for the civilian extraction as the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters landed,” Sgt. Miguel Lule, a team leader with Headquarters Headquarters Company, 3rd BSTB, 82nd ABN Div., said.
After the practice extraction, Paratroopers processed the civilians through the staging area at their base.
“We flew them to a safe location and then asked for their identification to ensure that they had their medications,” Lule, a Sterling Ill., native said. “This ensures that we get the civilians to a safe place, while the Army continues to fight.”
After the pickup and processing of the civilians, Paratroopers of 3rd BCT counted the NEO a success because they got back to basics by performing a multitude of tasks in an austere environment, Staff Sgt. Wesley Nelsen, a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 3rd BSTB, 82nd ABN, Div., said.
Nelson gained a different perspective from the JOAX after joining the Army in 1988.
“A lot of this is about trying to instill pride in our Paratroopers,” Nelsen said. “The history and importance of this type of training sometimes becomes lost on our younger guys. This type of training goes a long way to helping these Soldiers gain that experience.”