News: U.S. paratroopers seize Australian airfield during Talisman Saber
Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Late in the day of July 15, four C-17 jet aircraft loaded with a task force commanded led by paratroopers from the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment and additional units from Alaska took off from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for a joint airborne mission to take control of a drop zone in Australia during Talisman Saber 11.
The 17 hour flight included one mid-air refuel and in-flight rigging of parachutes and combat equipment with both American and guest Australian jumpmasters carefully controlling the main body of paratroopers.
The simulated mission was to seize Kapyong drop zone in Queensland, Australia, and secure it from the enemy opposing force played by additional members of the Australian military.
As the paratroopers landed they quickly mustered their forces at predesignated rally points called assembly areas. From there they began receiving additional instructions from their command element and engaging the enemy present in the surrounding wood line of the drop zone.
As the engagements continued and the joint American/Australian force strengthened it's hold on the DZ the Battalion Commander of the 1-501st, Lt. Col. Patrick Ellis kept a close watch on the performance of his forces on the ground. This mission, while primarily an opportunity for the U.S. and Australian paratroopers to refine their skills together, was also a valuable chance for the commander to witness the effectiveness of his men in a new land, with the stress of a long flight and lingering mission realistic in every way with the exception of real world loss of life.
"This was a great joint event with exceptional joint planning from both sides," said Ellis. "We accomplished a lot in a very short period of time without issue. The mission was a great success and proudly displayed the capabilities of the unit and tactical capabilities on the ground."
The professionally coordinated efforts of the joint task force quickly secured the DZ and soon after the sound of enemy small arms fire vanished from the distance. Later in the evening, the mayor of Rockhampton provided the visiting American paratroopers an opportunity to visit some of the locals at a western-style steakhouse and rodeo show. Local vendors offered Australian food and showed off some of the exotic wildlife such as pythons and baby crocodiles.
The next morning soldiers from the American task force were presented with Australian jump wings. This was done during a presentation of awards ceremony as they exchanged their own wings with the four Australian jumpmasters that accompanied them on the mission.
The benefits of Talisman Saber have provided both U.S. and Australian forces the chance to learn from one another and become stronger both as individual elements as well as a joint force. Cooperation between the two militaries and a better sense of camaraderie were previously set goals that many feel were well achieved.