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Army's 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment Jumps Down Under

By Lt. Cmdr. Keith Taylor and Lt. j.g. Kris Hooper, U
Special to American Forces Press Service

SHOAL WATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Australia, June 28, 2005 – Dropping in and destroying enemy ground forces is the specialty of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. Based at Fort Richardson, Alaska, the unit is playing a pivotal role this week in Talisman Saber '05, a combined joint exercise with Australian forces.

Talisman Saber is a month-long biennial exercise that integrates U.S. and Australian sea, land, and air forces in joint maneuvers. The goal of this outback endeavor is to develop combat effectiveness, and command and control cohesion, while enhancing regional stability and security, officials said. About 17,000 people are participating in the exercise, with the U.S. contributing 11,000 troops and Australia providing 6,000.

"Shoalwater Bay is Australia's pre-eminent military training facility for the orchestra of war involving land, sea, air and airborne units involved in joint operations," Australian Army Lt. Col. Richard Filewood, director of the Combined Exercise Control Group, said.

The 1st Battalion, 501st PIR, is a quick-strike unit that deploys around the world under short notice conditions as an airborne infantry force. The unit can penetrate deep into enemy territory, seize terrain, defeat enemy forces and destroy critical infrastructure. The battalion is the first element of one of the Army's newest formations, the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. About 600 soldiers from the 501st PIR flew in for Talisman Saber.

Departing from its home base near Anchorage, Alaska, the battalion traveled nearly 4,500 miles in Air Force C-17 jet transports. They safely parachuted during darkness onto a drop zone at the 667,182-acre Shoalwater Bay Training Area near Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The battalion arrived on the ground at 1:30 a.m. June 19 and will remain "down under" until early July.

"Our unit is now involved in tactical maneuvers with the Australian forces in a forward advance," said Capt. Travis Rudge, a platoon leader with the battalion. Rudge, who is responsible for the unit's logistical needs, said his troops will engage the opposing force in a mock battle.

"We have an extensive training program that centers on physical fitness, marksmanship, medical training and battle drills," he said. "Much of our tactical training is geared towards winning the war against terrorism. The battle drills include urban fighting, Brazilian Ju Jitsu hand-to-hand combat training, tactical vehicle movements, detecting, and reacting to (improvised explosive devices), and perimeter security."

The 501st mission supported Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan last year. Spc. William D'Hondt, a veteran with the unit, said the unit's realistic training beforehand -- similar to what they're doing in Australia -- was essential to success in the hilly Afghan territory.

"Combat skills acquired through that deployment and the intense scenarios developed for Talisman Saber both contribute to the realism of the training and are being shared with Australian forces," he said. "The most important thing I can teach the younger soldiers is to train like you fight. Most of the guys in the Army now are going to see combat, and they need to treat training like a real-world situation every time they can."

Maj. Steve Patin, 501st executive officer, also emphasized the importance of plausible battle play in the exercise. "Short of the outstanding performance and professionalism of our junior soldiers, realistic joint and combined training is the most important factor in our ability to fulfill our mission and win the global war on terrorism."

(Navy Lt. Cmdr. Keith Taylor and Lt. j.g. Kris Hooper are assigned to the Combined Joint Information Bureau for Talisman Saber '05.)

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