News: British army reserve paratroopers train with U.S. counterparts in preparation for Afghanistan deployment
Story by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Intense heat, check. Grueling training, check. Twenty-four paratroopers from across the pond, check. Soldiers from U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) are hosting their airborne brothers from the United Kingdom’s 4th Battalion Parachute Regiment for two weeks this July, to foster relations and prepare the allied paratroopers for their upcoming mission to Afghanistan.
Even though temperatures spiked to more than 100 degrees and felt more like 120, these two reserve units enjoyed the clear skies while cementing their friendship with multiple joint airborne operations, weapons qualifications, combat sustainability training, and more.
While the heat was a challenge, it provided the 4th Para, as the unit is known informally, a great opportunity to train with their American counterparts.
“The nice thing about coming here is that while we aspire to this type of training, you guys have more assets, and dare I say it, you have better weather then we do,” said Capt. Paul Finn, the commander of the 4th Para element. “The training value for us, it’s incredible, because you have the assets and the weather. We have nine guys who weren’t para qualified because the weather in the U.K. didn’t allow them. The aircraft were there, they’ve done their jumps, but they were two jumps short. But coming out here, it allows them to get on the jumps and get qualified,” said Finn.
This training is an outgrowth from the two units’ involvement in Operation Air Drop Warrior, in which USACAPOC(A) traditionally sends 150 paratroopers selected from subordinate units nationwide to France each year in order to commemorate Operation Overlord, the D-day landings in WWII. For the past three years the 4th Para has organized training in the United Kingdom prior to conducting joint operations in France. This year, USACAPOC(A) was able to return the favor by hosting the 4th Para here in order to prepare them for their next mission - a difficult deployment to Helmand province.
The group used Fort Bragg’s ample resources to conduct airborne operations and really put their skills to the test with a series of events at the range on various weapons systems, multiple trips to the urban training ranges, and a stroll through the Special Forces obstacle course, “Nasty Nick” and the Air Assault course.
While this was no ordinary training, Sgt. 1st Class Sean Bowers, USACAPOC(A) HHC operations sergeant, was modest in his role.
“I’ve been doing this for ten years, as the operations NCO, and it’s a piece of cake,” Bowers said. “I put together training that I would want to do, because I knew that I wouldn’t want provide them with training no one would want to do.”
Training logistics aside, Bowers felt the joint operations away from the battlefield helped foster relationships.
“The camaraderie is the biggest thing we get to take away from this,” Bowers continued, “They are not different than us. The only thing, is that they have that dialect, it’s hard to understand them half the time, especially when you’re talking on the phone with them, geez,” Bowers joked.
Finn agreed that the training was only half the story.
“I think the most valuable thing is the training and just getting to see how the Americans work, getting to see how our coalition forces work together and getting to play with them effectively, is tremendous because the only time we get to see the Americans is when invariably, we’re fighting alongside them.”
The importance of joint training was echoed by Finn’s troops, “It’s crucial because we have joint operations going on throughout the world, it helps us adapt with how different teams work and continue it overseas, especially in Afghanistan,” said Pvt. William Blackwell of the 4th Para, “It’s been fantastic, the facilities are absolutely incredible, we couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Blackwell.
Even though the training is only halfway done, the British soldiers are incredibly happy with everything they’ve gone through so far. “It’s just been absolutely fantastic, and I know my guys are absolutely loving it,” said Finn.
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