FORT POLK, La. – As paratroopers conducted an airborne insertion into a simulated foreign country, Special Forces soldiers prepared to meet them on the drop zone as the consulate personnel awaited for a formal introduction.
The Decisive Action Training Exercise, known as DATE, set the stage for participating units at the Joint Readiness Training Center. This exercise was designed for paratroopers, special operation forces, and government officials to operate interdependently throughout the scenario which was set in an austere country known as “Atropia.”
Interdependence Achieved... Col. Michael R. Fenzel, commander for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division and Lt. Col. Joseph Lock, commander for 4th Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, greet one another prior to a meeting during a Joint Readiness Training Center on August 26, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Loren Bymer)
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, plus its attachments worked with 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) to complete this training rotation. Since Operation Enduring Freedom began, special operation and conventional forces have found themselves solving problems and fighting together at an increasing rate.
“This rotation allowed Special Operation Forces and Conventional Forces to codify and sustain the lessons we collectively have learned over the past 12 years of war. Chief amongst them is our collective need to rely on one another during combat in order to maximize each other's strengths and mitigate our weaknesses,” said Col. John W. Brennan, commander of the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
Prior to this JRTC training exercise, the brigade and group commanders met and discussed how operators and paratroopers would rely on each other. Thus building a trusting relationship between the commanders that would endure throughout the exercise and between Special Forces and Conventional soldiers after the rotation.
“On the modern battlefield our paratroopers will be working directly with unconventional forces,” said Col. Michael R. Fenzel, Commander of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “Any success we enjoyed during our Decisive Action rotation at JRTC was impacted by the commitment to our relationship with 4th Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.”
With the declining number of personnel in the Army, the concept of interdependence is dire for future success. Leaders need to comprehend that the amount of tasks required of them will not change, but the amount of resources they have to accomplish them will potentially be less. Building relationships with a host of units will be necessary. Understanding how to interlock, depend and reciprocate actions for the success of all will become a normal day-to-day operation.
“The fact is that we will undoubtedly work together very closely again on future battlefields, and the new reality of operating in a fiscally-constrained environment which has made interdependence more critical to mission success,” Brennan added.
The understanding of the each unit's mission and how they contributed to the overall result was crucial throughout the exercise. Paratroopers operated in a conventional fashion while unconventional warfare was executed by Special Forces which solved problems. Each contributed to the overall success of the exercise.
“While we were preparing for offensive and defensive operations on one side of a zone of separation, they [SOF] were conducting shaping operations. Although the end state we were working toward may have had different time horizons, the objectives were in every case interdependent,” said Fenzel. “It just stands to reason that all our operations should be interdependent as well.”
Interdependence was achieved in Atropia due to the hard work and dedication of relationship building. This was focused on by everyone before, during and after operations. This success lies in the understanding of the commanders, staffs, and soldiers on the ground in how problems can be solved together.
“As a force, we must continuously learn, anticipate and evolve in order to defeat an enemy that poses asymmetric threats to the US and its allies. This exercise exemplified that goal and has provided an invaluable experience for all involved,” Brennan added.
By U.S. Army Maj. Loren Bymer
Provided through DVIDS
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