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82nd, 101st Soldiers Work Together to Prepare for Future

Col. Ed Swanson, project manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), gets feedback from the Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 10th Mountain Division during a WIN-T Increment 2 developmental test. (U.S. Army/Amy Walker, PEO C3T)
Col. Ed Swanson, project manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), gets feedback from the Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 10th Mountain Division during a WIN-T Increment 2 developmental test. (U.S. Army/Amy Walker, PEO C3T)

In an exercise unusual only for its location, the 82nd Airborne Division recently sent troops and helicopters to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to work with the 101st Airborne Division there.

The two storied Army units, linked by history and decades of rivalry, have been among the most deployed forces of the last 15 years.

In that time, units from each of the divisions have regularly relieved the other in Iraq or Afghanistan, or worked alongside each other in those wars.

But with both division's soldiers remaining in high demand for missions around the globe, and a shrinking Army that is making due on fewer resources, the mission in Kentucky could be a sign of things to come for the units, which both fall under Fort Bragg's 18th Airborne Corps.

Leaders from the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade and the 101st Airborne's 3rd Brigade Combat Team said the training showed the units are prepared to fight together "tonight" if needed, despite of or because of the friendly rivalry.

The 82nd flew 10 helicopters from Fort Bragg to Fort Campbell for the nearly week-long training in mid-March.

The eight UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and two CH-47 Chinook helicopters worked alongside aircraft from the 101st's aviation brigade, providing support for artillery and infantry units.

Lt. Col. Travis L. McIntosh, commander of the 2nd Aviation Assault Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, led the contingent of Fort Bragg soldiers, which included helicopters and crews from McIntosh's battalion and the 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion.

McIntosh, like many soldiers in the two divisions, has served with both the 82nd and the 101st.

He said both units take pride in what they do and have adaptive leaders willing to be flexible with training to enhance their unit's combat readiness.

By training at Fort Campbell, McIntosh said soldiers who are part of the 82nd Airborne's Global Response Force showed they could rapidly deploy and work with the 101st for a large air assault operation and develop plans to improve the cooperation.

"Without a mutual respect for both unit's capabilities and a history of fighting together with common operating procedures, this type of training exercise would be significantly more challenging," he said.

There's perhaps no greater rivalry in the Army than the one between the two sister divisions.

Both have history dating to World War I, but in each case they're most noted for their service in World War II.

Each of the divisions was reactivated for that war in the same place, Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, in 1942.

The 82nd Airborne came first, in March of that year, and became the Army's first airborne division that August.

A day later, the 101st was formed, in part from soldiers previously assigned to the 82nd Airborne.

The 82nd deployed first. In 1943, its soldiers participated in the war's Mediterranean campaign, conducting parachute assaults.

The 101st Airborne caught up to the 82nd in time for the D-Day invasion of German-occupied Normandy, France.

The 101st's paratroopers were the first to jump for the parachute assaults that preceded the beach landings.

Soldiers from both divisions fought in Operation Market Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.

And while the two divisions no longer share the bonds of being airborne -- the 101st is airborne in name only and instead focuses on delivering troops by helicopter -- they continue to share battlefields.

In the past 15 years, units from the two divisions regularly passed each other in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The latest example came earlier this month, when the 101st Airborne headquarters replaced its counterparts in the 82nd Airborne in Iraq.

Col. Larry Burris, who commands the 101st's 3rd Brigade, said the relationship between soldiers in the 101st and 82nd divisions has been one built over decades on mutual respect.

"Today the friendly rivalry still exists," Burris said. "But over the last decade or so, the respect between the two historic divisions has grown because one depends on the other to provide support to accomplish their respective training or real-world missions successfully."

The colonel said the latest training was one example of that dependency.

McIntosh said the partnership and competitiveness between the two divisions were only strengthened by opportunities to serve with each other over the past 15 years.

"I've deployed twice with each unit and have tremendous respect for both" he said. "In all four of these deployments I arrived either to replace an 82nd or a 101st aviation unit in Iraq and Afghanistan."

The participation of 82nd Airborne aviators allowed the 101st's aviation assets to continue to reset following a deployment to Afghanistan that ended earlier this year, officials said.

The unit that preceded the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade in Afghanistan was the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, which returned home in May 2015.

More importantly, officials said the training also prepared the two brigades to cooperate at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, when each will deploy together for realistic training meant to prepare them for future missions.

The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade will begin to send its aircraft to Louisiana for that mission later this week.

"Our aviators and maintainers are ready to support all services and multiple allied nations around the globe," McIntosh said. "By deploying to an unfamiliar area and supporting an unfamiliar unit, we are able to test how adaptive our leaders can be."

And, Burris said, the soldiers would now be better prepared to work together.

"There may be slight differences between how operations are conducted here at (Fort Campbell) and (at Fort Bragg,)" Burris said. "However, both units collaborate constantly to ensure those differences are taken into account during the planning and preparation phase leading up to the execution of this training exercise."

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