British Paratroopers from 16 Air Assault Brigade have been testing themselves alongside their American counterparts in an expansive and wide-ranging exercise, designed to build military interoperability and develop the close bond of friendship which already exists between Airborne units from the two nations.
The soldiers from the Second Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, based at Merville Barracks in Colchester, are in the United States as part of Exercise RATTLESNAKE, which has seen them conduct a series of challenging joint activities with the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
These have ranged from complex live-firing assaults on sprawling mock enemy villages, to day and night parachute jumps in combat gear using American parachutes and safety equipment, each training serial allowing the troops to hone their own skills and learn new operating procedures which could be used on future UK/US operations.
They’ve got respect for us and we’ve shown them the same respect Cpl Dan Bradley
Speaking at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Major Robin Rowell, Officer Commanding B Coy, 2 PARA, spoke of the close relationship his men had struck up with their opposite numbers in the US 101st Airborne Division
“I think the training has been extremely realistic, and the lessons my soldiers have learned have been invaluable. It’s great to see at all times, both on the exercise and when we’ve had tactical breaks, the conversations that have been going on at a very low level between both the American and British soldiers, pretty much regardless of rank. It shows a very close bond between the UK and the US, and when it all boils down to it, the forces are very similar.”
Corporal Dan Bradley, a Section Commander with B Coy, 2 PARA, said:
“I’ve worked alongside the Americans in Afghanistan, they’re a good group of guys. They’ve got respect for us and we’ve shown them the same respect.”
“I think with the experiences of Afghanistan fading away now, there’s only a few of us really who have been on tour, and it’s good for the guys to come over to foreign places like this, because it does add realism. In fact it’s probably about as real as it’s going to get with the explosions and pyrotechnics that they have going on, and it’s good “battle inoculation" for the guys. It also breaks the routine of just doing normal exercises on British training areas.”
Meanwhile at Fort Bragg, the largest military camp in the United States and something akin to a fully functioning city in its own right, Lieutenant Will Maxted of A Coy, 2 PARA, said their hosts from the 82nd “All American” Airborne Division had been both highly professional and warmly hospitable.
“They’re very upbeat, they’re very positive, and that gives a great sense of esprit de corps and camaraderie with our guys and makes us feel very welcome. Obviously we’ve got different parachutes and different aircraft, but thanks to their positivity we’ve felt like we’re back in Britain really.”