FORT CAMPBELL, KY. - The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), along with the Army National Guard and coalition partners from Canada, Poland, Germany, and Afghanistan began conducting a final training and rehearsal exercise (Unified Endeavor 13-1) Dec. 6 in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.
These partnering NATO forces have set up training grounds at Ft. Campbell that simulate the experience of handling operations in Afghanistan. The facility includes a Joint Operations Center (JOC) and several interwoven tents that replicate Division Headquarters overseas.
“Everything inside resembles how we are going to conduct operations in Afghanistan. When you walk in there, it’s not Ft. Campbell, Ky.; it’s Bagram Airfield,” Major Juanita Chang said.
Inside this elaborate set-up, soldiers from various units monitor operations and maintain special communications systems. Most operations are highly classified, but the basic principle includes rehearsing everyday situations that can arise during deployment.
“The intent for us through this exercise is to take that knowledge and move to a graduate level of understanding of the fight that we’re going to have forward,” Deputy Commanding General of Operations, Colonel Drew Poppas, said.
About 450 ‘role-players’ have travelled to Ft. Campbell from various parts of the globe to participate in the training, and over 1,000 total participants are involved. The units coordinate logistics and handle emergencies, re-supply, and maintain secret network communications systems. Hostile media role-players were also brought in to help leaders practice their skills in dealing with the press.
The maze of generator-powered tents also includes a special tent for meetings with Afghan leaders. This tent is specifically designed to show respect for Afghan culture and includes floor-level cushions and pillows, curtains, and a low table. The trainees learn how to conduct meetings in an appropriate manner and environment to ensure effective communication.
Brigadier General Dave Corbould of the Canadian Forces has been working closely with Colonel Poppas during this training period. “It is a great honor and privilege from my perspective. It represents the close ties both the U.S. and Canada have, both on a civil and political front, but also on the military front. Our armies are very close and train together on a regular basis, and we’ve operated together on joint operations across the world on several occasions,” Gen. Corbould said.
“Coming down here to the 101st Division I’ve found there has been a lot of commonality in our language, and our work terminology in terms of operational planning, decision-making processes, staff processes, and our action words out on the ground in terms of tactics and operations. Because of our alliances and our coalitions we’re able to maintain those technical links and those professional links.”
Both armies are working on retrieving expert advice from other units in order to progress during this deployment, when the 101st will assume command of NATO’s Regional Command-East. The successes of previous missions to Afghanistan are driving the decisions to be made.
“The strength we’ve had is trying to share the experiences we’ve had and making sure our intent is not to go back and fight our old fight better this time. We know that the dynamics on the ground have changed,” Colonel Poppas said.
The ultimate goal is to ensure the Afghans can maintain full responsibility of their own security forces without further foreign involvement. Currently, the U.S. and NATO forces are guiding and advising the Afghan government, which is a huge leap from previous missions, when Afghan security was unable to take the reins.
“What I saw and was most impressed with were Afghans in the lead, getting to the point where it’s a professionally-led organization through all levels of the security forces,” Colonel Poppas said.
Though substantial progress has been made, there is still work to be done.
“The training process is a mental shift, because we’re all type A personalities and we all always want to be the first to get there and the first to do it and we’ll solve the problem right away as best we can. What we need to do, though, is be able to step back and continue in that advisor role to allow them and encourage them and reinforce their successes, as opposed to always taking the lead,” Gen. Corbould said.
He believes the partnership between U.S. and Canadian forces has proven itself to be a solid example for the Afghan forces. “It just further emphasizes the legitimacy of what we’ve done in the past, recognizes the sacrifices that we’ve all made, all of our nations into this leader of operations. It also recognizes the progress and the transition that we’re making, ultimately enabling Afghanistan to carry on and live like any other country would want to live in this international world.”
The training will continue through Dec. 14, and the trained units will deploy to Afghanistan later this winter.
Sgt. Kyle Zobel, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault,) reunites with his wife Christine after returning from a nine-month deployment at Fort Campbell, Ky., May 18, 2013. (U.S. Army pho
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Dining Out for Fisher House
Will take place May 24-25 at Ruby Tuesday on Ft. Campbell Blvd. The restaurant will give back 20% of every diner’s bill to the Fort Campbell Fisher House. Flyer must be presented. For more information, call 270-798-8330.