By Maj. Sean D. Delpech
U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne)
The U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) and the 82nd Airborne Division teamed up Dec. 3 to conduct a large-scale airborne operation to train and maintain the currency of over 170 paratroopers between the two organizations.
“Partnering for airborne operations like this provides an excellent example of Army units working together to maximize coordination and increase readiness,” said USACAPOC(A) Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Michael M. Greer. “This jump mission was also a great way to showcase the USACAPOC(A) Airborne program and our Jumpmaster capabilities for the Army Reserve.”
The airborne operation offered the opportunity for both USACAPOC(A) and the 82ndAirborne Division to partner for success.
“The long days and work preparing and executing the operation were rewarding,” said U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Sean P. Howen, USACAPOC(A) G3 Air officer. “We had great weather, no injuries, and no aircraft maintenance issues, all resulting in a great day.”
Paratroopers assigned to airborne units must complete a jump every 90 days in order to maintain the currency of their jump status, and it is a constant rotation of planning, training, and execution for unit jumpmasters.
“2020 has shown us that we may not always have the resources to support the airborne capability or to maintain paratrooper and jumpmaster proficiency and currency,” said Howen. “Our forces will continue to train and focus on airborne readiness, maintaining that posture to support future missions.”
The airborne operation was also planned and conducted with COVID-19 safety in place, in what has become a habitual training mindset.
“Airborne operations present unique challenges to plan and operate in routine environments, and those challenges only increase when you add the COVID-19 risk,” said Greer. “Our jumpmasters both follow and enforce established safety protocols, and have integrated COVID-19 mitigation to make sure the training audience is prepared to conduct operations effectively and safely, no matter the challenge.”
With the necessary precautions in place, it was an achievement to ensure the number of paratroopers planned into the timeline had the opportunity to jump.
“Masks are required, everyone maintains social distancing, and aircraft are loaded with a reduced number of four static line jumpers for the rotary operations planned, down from the eight that a UH-60 is capable of,” Howen said.
“It's the environment we are operating in at this time and we will continue to do so until it changes,” Howen added.
This partnership airborne operation also offered the opportunity to expand the scope of expertise and training.
“For most airborne operations, we have 1-2 aircraft,” said Howen. “For this jump, we had four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters making multiple passes, and it was great knowing all the planning, preparation and hard work was worth it when four UH-60s were flying in formation to land in the pickup.”
The additional aircraft delivered the capability to effectively validate more paratroopers in the tight timeline, as well as increasing the learning experience with a larger scale operation.
“The number one constraint, most of the time with airborne operations, is meeting the approved timeline,” continued Howen. “The restrictions imposed by aircraft flight time, crew time, hours of day light, or supporting elements with an airborne operation typically are your number one challenge.”
“Staying flexible and expecting to have a few issues and a course of action planned helps alleviate the friction when problems arise,” said Howen.