Wednesday, October 29, 2008

82nd Airborne Trains to Re-assume Global Response Force Mission

By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - If there's one thing that keeps the 82nd Airborne's deputy commander awake at night, he said, it's competing requirements that could threaten the division's ability to project no-notice combat power and conduct forced-entry missions.

Army Brig. Gen. William Mayville shared his concerns as the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team trains to re-assume its role in June as the U.S. global response force. In this capacity, the brigade will be on 24/7 standby, ready to deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours.

Its mission, if called, would be to forcibly enter and seize a defended airfield, then build up combat power to support follow-on military operations.

The 2nd BCT will reclaim the longstanding 82nd Airborne Division role – one some say defines the All American Division's very existence. The 82nd passed the mission to the 101st Airborne Division last year when it was called to deploy to Iraq as part of the troop surge. At the time, the division's three other brigades were already deployed.

The deployment represented the first time since 2003 that the entire division was deployed from Fort Bragg.

"We shared the wealth with other people, because the whole 82nd was deployed," said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel, the division's top noncommissioned officer. "We didn't want to leave the United States here without a force ready to answer the nation's call if they were called to do something. And so we started passing it around to other divisions to pick up the slack."

With the 82nd now enjoying what Mayville called "a rarity," with all four brigades now home, the 2nd BCT is training up to resume its role as the ready brigade. Plans call for it to assume the mission for a full year, rather than rotating it among the division's other brigades every quarter.

By mid-day Oct. 23, Mayville reported, the division already had conducted seven airfield seizure operations, dropped 36 heavy-drop platforms, conducted several tactical air-land operations and jumped more than 5,000 paratroopers, with another nighttime jump scheduled that night.

"It's important that we understand and maintain this fundamental requirement to project combat power and forced-entry missions," Mayville said. "So far, this is not a problem. ... But this requirement has got to compete with all these [other] near-term requirements," including operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mayville's concern is that readiness for the quick-response mission requires practice – not just by the paratroopers and the Air Force assets that deliver them, but by every entity that would support the mission.

"There is a lot of investment in this readiness business, and it has to be practiced," he said. "You have to have a force that has all the enablers that would be needed in an expeditionary environment, and they have to be ready and work together and train together."

Last week's airfield seizure training successfully incorporated these participants. But Mayville said he's concerned that when push comes to shove, current requirements could compete against future training opportunities.

"I worry about this," he said. "This is not an 82nd issue. This is a readiness issue."

Mayville said he brings up this concern every opportunity he gets. "Readiness and no-notice capabilities do not happen by accident," he said. "[They come] with foresight, with investment, with training – joint training.

"We just have to constantly remind ourselves that as hard as things are today, there is something out there that we don't see that we have got to be ready for," he said.

"There will be a call at a time not of our choosing that this nation is going to turn and say, 'Get something there now,'" he said. "And that doesn't just happen because someone made a phone call."