Joint exercise projects decisive combat power

More than 600 United States Army Paratroopers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division filled the night sky over the Mojave Desert, during Joint Forcible Entry exercise dubbed Operation Dragon Spear, Aug. 5-6.

The exercise was the largest joint training activity in more than a decade at the National Training Center, comprising more than 1,500 Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, 75th Ranger Regiment and Special Forces, demonstrating the Army’s ability to project decisive combat power anywhere in the world.

Prior to execution of the exercise, former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Gen. (ret.) Raymond T. Odierno and Gen. Joseph L. Votel, commanding general for Special Operations Command, briefed reporters on the importance and purpose of the training.

“We’re making sure that everybody understands that we have a capability, if we have to, to force our way into an area if it’s in our nation’s best interest,” Odierno said.

Votel said the drill would give senior leaders more military options in the future.

“What’s important tonight is we’re exercising this integration in a different scenario than we probably have over the last several years,” Votel said.

Along with the two senior leaders, there were more than 40 distinguished visitors, including Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and Rep. Paul Cook, (R-CA 8th District), viewing the training event.

At dusk, Soldiers from C and D Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, fired more than 60 engagements with spine-chilling accuracy utilizing two M1 Abrams tank platoons. At one point during the barrage, AH-64 Apache helicopters were called to fire upon an occupied ridge line. All engagements were to set the stage for the positioning and firing of a high mobility artillery rocket system.

After the 11th ACR unleashed their assets, distinguished visitors and media representatives were escorted to a flight landing strip to view the joint exercise. The JFE operation began with the U.S. Air Force delivering pre-assault fires, a tactic to destroy and disrupt the enemy’s area access and to remove any surface to air capability. This was all in preparation for Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, to assault on the flight landing strip in the mock country called Atropia, which was under attack by rebels from the neighboring country Donovia.

Once the surface to air capabilities were destroyed, the Rangers landed in two V-22 Osprey’s and attacked the rebels utilizing the new MRZR, a special operations tactical vehicle with unique strategic and tactical capabilities. The goal of the Ranger assault was to drive back the rebels to make way for an airborne forcible entry, which included five gun trucks, two M777 Howitzer’s, 16 MRZR’s and 600 Soldiers from 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division – all delivered by 12 U.S. Air Force C-17 and C-130 aircraft.

The exercise showcased the interoperability of the Army and Air Force, as well as the interdependence of the Army’s conventional force and Special Forces in a complex and dynamic environment.

At the end of Dragon Spear, Secretary Work made his remarks on the operation’s complexity.

“There are very few organizations in the world that would be able to put together an exercise like this,” Work said.

Odierno concurred, saying, “The National Training Center, here at Fort Irwin, is the crown jewel of our training areas.”

United States Army Forces Command is preparing Army units that can seize, retain, and exploit the initiative to gain and maintain a position of advantage in sustained land operations – all to create conditions for favorable conflict resolution. The JFE exercise at the NTC illustrated the Army has forces prepared for this contingency.

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