SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Australia - About 400 Soldiers,
including a handful of Airmen and Marines, parachuted onto Kapyong
Drop Zone, Williamson Airfield, in the northeast state of
Queensland, the morning of July 8, 2015, as part of exercise
Talisman Sabre 15.
The Soldiers, almost all of whom were from
3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry
Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, jumped from
seven C-17 Globemasters, two of which belonged to the Royal
Australian Air Force, or RAAF.
"Doing a strategic jump from
[Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson] Alaska, to Australia, after 19
hours of flight, demonstrates pretty significant capability," said
the battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Matt Hardman, who also made the
jump from static lines at 1,000 feet.
The goal of the jump
was to seize an expeditionary airfield and secure it for initial
entry operations, he said. That goal was accomplished.
Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, jump from a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemasters into Queensland, Australia, July 8, 2015, as part of exercise Talisman Sabre. (Photo by David Vergun, Defense Media Activity - Army)
He then spoke to the importance his battalion played in
It's all about "honing our craft" and
showing we're committed to the bilateral relationship with
the Australians, who've trained and fought with us numerous
times over the last century, he said.
important aspect of the exercise is testing the
interoperability of the Army in a joint, bilateral setting,
he said. He said he also expects the exercise will reassure
America's allies and act as a deterrent to its adversaries.
"The work that went into this exercise is similar to
that I've seen on all my deployments in Iraq and
Afghanistan," said Hardman, who has been in four combat
The battalion started training for this
exercise six months out.
"In May we did company live
fires for the first time in 15 or 20 years. It helped
prepare us for this," he said.
Hardman said he gave
his subordinate commanders "the freedom to execute the plan
without me having to control things. They know what's
expected and they're executing, so the bulk of my work was
[strategic planning] prior to coming down here."
exercise is the equivalent of a National Training Center
rotation for Australia, he said, adding that the size of
Shoalwater is much bigger than NTC at Fort Irwin,
California, the Army's premier training site.
Soldiers were conducting the exercise at Shoalwater, U.S.
Marines, Airmen and Sailors, as well as Australians and some
New Zealanders, were operating in locations throughout
Australia, particularly along the northern coastal areas.
The entire exercise runs July 4-19.
from 4-25, others from Hawaii and Joint Base Lewis-McChord,
Washington, are participating in various supporting roles.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, I Corps commander, is the exercise's
combined forces land component commander, said a spokesman
from U.S. Army Alaska.
The paratroopers from 4-25 are
slated to depart Australia aboard C-17s and a parachute drop
back onto JBER is planned for July 12, the spokesman said.
MANY MOVING PARTS
"The choreography of this exercise is amazing," Hardman
said, meaning units from all over had to do many tasks on
time and correctly to make it all work.
The RAAF provided close-air support to the
Soldiers on the ground, who were allied with the Australian
army's 7th Brigade. The opposition force was the Australian
army's 3rd Brigade.
To ensure the RAAF dropped
ordnance at the right place and the right time, several
Airmen from the Joint Tactical Air Control, JBER and some
Marines from 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Companies, aka
ANGLICO, out of Okinawa, Japan, talked to RAAF pilots and
controllers from the ground, he said.
RAAF Hawk-127 fighters doing close-air support, the RAAF was
also flying an unmanned aerial system which was supporting
Some enablers also came in from MacDill Air
Force Base, Florida, and provided long-distance, joint
expeditionary communications support, he continued.
"It was pretty amazing sitting in the joint mission brief,"
he said. In the brief were the C-17 crews from Joint Base
Charleston, South Carolina; JBLM; JBER and RAAF. Also
included were tanker crews from Travis AFB, California, and
Hickam, AFB, Hawaii.
It was incredible "to see all
those pieces tie together. You learn something each time you
do that. I know I did," he said.
last massive U.S. paratroop combat drop was during World War
However, that capability is still used
and remains a valuable tool for the combatant commander or
allies, Hardman said, citing the French, who parachuted into
Mali during operations in 2013. The U.S. Army conducted
airborne missions in Grenada, Panama, and more recently,
during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003 and some small
airborne operations in Afghanistan.
When the large
earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, "we came close to jumping in
because of the difficulty of opening the airfield there to
get in relief supplies," he added.
"The ability of
our brigade to put 3,000 paratroopers somewhere to help if
there's a disaster or conflict is a unique capability,"
Hardman said. "We think full-spectrum all the time. We're
always prepared to go under canopy by parachute, but the
real fight is when we get on the ground and what we bring to
Hardman said during each of his
deployments, he's had some level of interaction with the
"They're a very professional
organization," he said. "They punch well above their
In the late evening, July 8, an RAAF MHR-90
helicopter rumbled to life on Shoalwater. Paratroopers were
asleep nearby. A reporter who had embedded from Alaska asked
Hardin what the helicopter was doing so late at night, and
expressed concern for Soldiers losing sleep.
said the helicopter was departing with staff officers from
4-25 and an Australian task force, who came to plan the next
The Soldiers get used to the noise, he
said, adding that "freedom is never quiet and never stops."
By David Vergun, Defense Media Activity - Army
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