Their mission: deploy to any location in the world within 18 hours. Their unit: the 82nd Airborne Division. As flashes of brilliant white light briefly illuminate the Sicily Drop Zone in Fort Bragg, N.C., paratroopers beset an imaginary country with artillery and lead, the goal to seize control and defend.
This was part of a Joint Operation Access Exercise that despite the blinding rain and swirling sands, became a triumph over adversity for Battery A, 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, June 26 -28.
“This was typical training weather,” Sgt.Maj. Joey Love, the command sergeant major for the 3-319th, and Los Angeles native, said. “We were a little wet and a little slow at first, but it’s our job to find a way to put steel down range.”
For some, overcoming the problems like the wind and rain during the JOAX proved to be an arduous task.
“The rain fogged up the first sight, and the gunner couldn’t see through them,” Sgt. 1st Class John Glenn, a gunnery sergeant with 3-319th, and Wichita Falls, Texas, native, said. “Our guys laid in and were able to have our weapons in place within 12 minutes of the drop.
The efficiency and adaptability of the artillerymen became contagious and spread to the medics, who were on standby to treat patients during the night jump. The medics had to adapt and overcome through the rainy night.
“We had four casualties in the back of the ambulance,” 2nd Lt. Brandon Garay, the medic platoon leader with the 3-319th, and a Gainesville, Va., native said. “We were driving around with a chem light (chemical) leading us, as one medic took care of four casualties in the back.
For the artillerymen, the success of the JOAX depended on the 3-319th’s ability to adjust to the turbulent situation that stemmed from the inclement weather.
“The objective of the JOAX is to jump in, secure an airfield and conduct post fires,” 2nd Lt. Nima Sarrafan, the fire direction officer for the 3-319th and an Atlanta native, said. “It’s important to train in the rain to know that we have all-weather, all terrain, anytime day or night capabilities. Our job is to support the maneuver element and they operate at all hours and in all conditions."
As the howitzers paired shots with the rain soaked night, the 3-319th had to improvise to the weather, as they would in a battle situation.
The 3-319th had to build an igloo to keep the equipment and paperwork dry by piecing together field scrap from their trucks, explained Sarrafan.
Even though the situation seemed bleak, some learned a valuable lesson from Mother Nature’s blockade of interference.
“My function in the training was to come down and secure the medical area and take care of the real world casualties,” Sgt. 1st Class Richard Ortiz, a medical platoon non-commissioned officer with the 3-319th, and Brooklyn, N.Y., native, said. “There was almost no light and because of the storm we couldn’t use our night vision. Like most training with trials you learn something and what we learned from this experience is that you always prepare for the rain.”
Despite the bad weather, one paratrooper found that all of the pieces literally fell into place.
“We were sent to provide combat service support, that includes providing food, water, ammo and fuel,” 1st Sgt. Juan Ventura, the first sergeant for Company G, 3-319th, and Plainfield, N.J. native said. “Everything has gone well, but heavy drops always get priority. It was a complete success for the rest of the pieces. This was a complete forces exercise because the 82nd, has to be able to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours.”
As the stormy night, gave way to the scorching sun the next day, the paratroopers of the 3-319th moved from point-to-point across the vast plain that was their training ground, to ensure that when the time comes to fight and defend, their speed will deliver and their resolve will hold true.