U.S. and Canadian service members recently conducted Joint Operations Access Exercise 12-01 as part of Large Package Week at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Airmen with the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing joined forces with airborne units from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and Canada’s Company M, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment for the exercise.
The Joint Operations Access Exercise gave the airborne forces the opportunity to test their global response force readiness and ability to conduct operations with coalition partners.
“The objective of LPW/JOAX is to ensure airborne units are current and able to perform a full spectrum of operation skills during a parachute assault,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Edwards, an 820th Combat Operations Squadron squad leader. “Each group has their own objective they are assigned to, and ours was to jump in with our coalition partners and provide security along with helping with the evacuation of civilian noncombatants out of the hostile environment.”
The exercise consisted of multiple nighttime combat equipment jumps; assaulting and cleaning a flight landing strip; an air assault; a ground assault convoy; and evacuation of civilian noncombatants.
Paratroopers have strategic capabilities such as establishing an airhead for landing other units or the ability to enter the battle from different locations, which allows paratroopers to evade fortifications that are in place to prevent attack from a specific direction. These are just some of the capabilities that have ensured airborne forces are still a part of the military within units like the 82nd Airborne Division.
Within the first 20 minutes of the exercise, approximately 500 airborne members landed on the ground and gathered at their rally points to begin their respective missions, including seizing the landing strip, providing perimeter security and performing follow-on objectives.
By the end of the exercise, approximately 1,000 airborne forces had jumped onto the battlefield and secured key positions, like the landing strip.
“We had a total of 19 airborne members from the 820th Base Defense Group who jumped during the exercise, and each one played a key role in performing the mission we were tasked with,” Edwards said. “Our group was made up of more than just security forces members. We had an intelligence analyst, a communications specialist, a close precision-engagement team and a physician assistance who jumped in with us, and all of them can perform the duty of a fire team member as well.”
The 93rd AGOW is a multifaceted group made up of 12 different career fields that can provide support depending on the mission at hand.
“When we are supporting a joint role like the one during the JOAX, we add another element to what can be provided,” said Air Force Maj. James Meier, the 824th Base Defense Squadron commander. “We may have a guy with us who can help pull intelligence, or another who can provide medical support to the injured as well as provide security if needed.”
The group also had 40 additional airborne members who were taxied onto the landing strip by a C-17 Globemaster III in order to provide further support to the mission following the initial wave of troops.
“Having their support provides a different capability than what our units usually have,” said Army Capt. Robert Gregory, of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “It was great having the 93rd AGOW fighting right beside us.”
Canadian military members said the exercise also provided valuable training to the Canadian paratroopers, who are normally not able to conduct battalion- or brigade-sized training events.
“This will be the second year that we have sent our guys here to participate in the JOAX,” said Royal Canadian Regiment Sgt. Jared Baillie, a 3rd RCR paratrooper, “We have about 150 members participating in the exercise this year, which will really help with any future joint operations.”
The joint exercise is scheduled to be held three times a year to ensure each rotation of personnel are proficient and trained in the event a situation like this occurs and an assault like this is needed.