From an article by Army SPC Mike Pryor:
...The 82nd’s mission is to conduct forcible entry parachute assaults and secure key objectives for follow-on military operations. The way the Division trains for this mission is through large-scale, combined service combat simulations known as Joint Forcible Entry Exercises...
Tuesday, April 26, 8 p.m.: In the Air
High in the sky inside the cockpit of his C-130, Air Force 1st Lt. Kevin M. Greenwood, a flight navigator with the 41st Airlift Wing, is preparing to send 20,000 pounds of equipment hurtling out into the night sky.
Greenwood’s crew is in charge of the heavy equipment drop that will begin the JFEX. As they approach the drop zone, the pilot lowers altitude and slows the plane down to 140 knots. Timing is crucial at this point. Four different radios fill the cockpit with chatter, but Greenwood tunes everything out as he goes through his mental checklist.
“All I focus on is my plane and getting my drop off,” Greenwood said.
The moment arrives. The ramp is open. The green light comes on. A parachute on the pallet catches the wind and inflates, yanking the cargo out of the aft of the plane. As it drifts to the ground, aircraft carrying hundreds of Paratroopers are already in the air behind it. The airborne assault has begun...
Paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team fill the night sky during an airborne assault on Holland Drop Zone as part of a Joint Forcible Entry Exercise. Photo by SPC Mike Pryor.
Tuesday, April 26, 11 p.m.: On the Ground
“Sir, there’s someone moving up there!” one of Army Capt. Matthew T. Adamcyzk’s men calls out to him.
“Well, shoot him,” Adamcyzk replies calmly.
Adamcyzk, commander of A Co, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, is in a fighting mood. He has spent the past hour trying to gather his men together for an assault on the airfield terminal. The jump had left A Co spread across the drop zone. But Paratroopers are never alone for long. In the darkness, men formed improvised fire teams and headed for the assembly area. Slowly, A Co pieced itself back together.
Now Adamcyzk is ready for the assault to begin. He is lying in the sand behind some tall grass. Before him is a well-guarded airfield terminal with an unknown number of dug-in defenders. His company is the main effort on the assault. A Co must clear the terminal for the mission to succeed.
Adamcyzk sends his men forward, methodically clearing each building of the airfield. Muzzle flashes illuminate the night as the opposition force is eliminated one by one. Soon the airfield has been seized and secured. Phase One of the JFEX is complete...
A Paratrooper from A Co, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division points out a target for another Paratrooper to fire at while they clear buildings of enemy fighters during the Joint Forcible Entry Exercise. Photo by SPC Mike Pryor.
A Paratrooper from A Co, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division pulls security down a hallway while other troopers clear rooms inside a building during a Joint Forcible Entry Exercise. Photo SPC Mike Pryor.
Wednesday, April 27, 10 a.m.: The Natives Grow Restless
The Imam isn’t happy, and Spc. Trevor Greenberg can’t do much about it. The Imam is part of a group of Iraqi citizens hired to role-play civilians on the battlefield and add realism to the exercise. It is the day after the airfield seizure, and civilians are starting to make their way back into the area. The Imam’s group is trying to gain access to the terminal to meet with the commander of the operation. A security patrol has brought them to Greenberg, a radioman with 2nd Battalion, 325th AIR. He isn’t sure why.
With the help of an interpreter, Greenberg is trying to calm the Imam, who is becoming more and more angry as he is kept waiting. Speaking in rapid-fire Arabic and gesturing with his hands, he demands to speak to someone “more important.” Finally, the Imam throws up his hands and goes to sulk in the shade.
“I don’t blame them,” Greenberg says philosophically, “It’s the Imam and the Mayor. They’re important people. I wouldn’t want to talk to me either.”
Thursday, April 28, 1 p.m.: Can’t Stop the Rain
Sgt. Elijah Ruediger has forgotten what it’s like to be dry. He and his mortar squad from 1st Battalion, 325th AIR have been out in the pouring rain all day, and are now soaked down to the bone. It is the third day of the JFEX and the weather has turned nasty. The constant, driving rain has turned the operation into a stubborn contest of wills - Paratroopers versus the elements.
One of the men in Ruediger’s squad is sitting in the back of a Humvee without any wet weather gear on. His uniform is dark and heavy from the rain. Ruediger asks him why he doesn’t put a poncho on.
“Hey, I can’t get any wetter,” he says.
Ruediger shakes his head and turns away. It’s too wet to argue.
Thursday, April 28, 5p.m.: Hide Sight
Pfc. Randall Thibodeaux takes another look through his binoculars. The people in the building he is observing are moving again. Thibodeaux dutifully notes the activity, as he has done for the last 17 hours.
Thibodeaux is part of a three-man surveillance team from B Troop, 1st Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment. His team has been watching the building all day, hidden from sight by natural cover and the Ghillie Suits they are wearing. Their job is to monitor enemy activity at the site where an air assault is scheduled to take place later that night.
The team has only a few hours left to go before it is relieved. Thibodeaux’s hands are now so waterlogged from the rain that they are swelling. He ignores the pain and raises the binoculars again anyway. What else is there to do?
“We’re constantly paying attention to everything that’s going on. It helps you stay awake,” he said.
Friday, April 28, 2 a.m.: End Game
“Nine buildings down, only one more to go,” thinks Pfc. Roy Towers of C Co, 1st. Bn., 325th AIR, as he gets his Squad Automatic Weapon into position. Towers and the rest of his battalion have been engaged in tough, house-to-house fighting on Range 74 since making a helicopter assault on the objective three hours earlier. They have cleared every building except the one he is now pointing his SAW at. Inside it is the High Value Target they fought their way through the entire city to capture. When he is killed or captured they can go home.
With that thought as his motivation, Towers begins laying down a steady stream of suppressive fire to cover the assault team’s movements. His SAW keeps the enemies’ heads down as the assault team sprints across a courtyard and stacks up outside the door of the building. “Go! Go!” the squad leader yells and his men burst into the room. There is a brief explosion of gunfire and seconds later 7 dead bodies are lying on the ground, including the HVT. The mission is complete. The JFEX is over. All that’s left do now is collect up the brass.