11th Airborne to stage big training exercise on range near Fort Greely
Division overseeing biggest Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center exercise yet at Donnelly Training Area
More than 10,000 soldiers will converge on the Donnelly Training Area near Fort Greely next week in preparation for the largest military training exercise of its kind. And the 11th Airborne Brigade will begin moving equipment into the area later this week in convoys on the Parks and Richardson highways.
Nearly all of the 11th Airborne Division’s soldiers will take part in this year’s Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Center exercise, along with U.S. Marines and troops and equipment from the Alaska Army National Guard and Canadian military. It’ll be the biggest such exercise since the division was reactivated two years ago to rebuild the nation’s Arctic fighting force.
“This will be the first major air-assault movement for our 1st Brigade Combat Team since the inception of the 11th Airborne,” says John Pennell, a division spokesperson.
That’s one of the Fort Wainwright-based units that’ll be taking part in the exercise, along with elements of the 52nd Aviation Regiment and 25th Aviation Battalion. Other units are out of Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, where the division is headquartered. Pennell says the two units will arrive at the training area in typical air-assault fashion.
“The 2nd Brigade Combat Team will be jumping into the Donnelly drop zone from Air Force aircraft,” he said in an interview Friday.
Pennell says most of the personnel participating in this year’s exercise who don’t jump out of airplanes will be transported to the Donnelly Training Area in helicopters.
“You’ll see an increase in helicopter traffic, Blackhawks and Chinooks, flying along the Richardson corridor from Wainwright down into the Donnelly Training Area.”
He says those troops also will jump, from a lower altitude, to take and hold territory.
“The helicopters hover just above the snow and all the soldiers and their equipment pile out,” he said. “The helicopters takes off, and then the soldiers move out to establish security around the perimeter. And more helicopters flow in behind them.”
Transporting troops by aircraft will reduce the number of vehicles in convoys coming up the Parks Highway to Fort Wainwright and then on to Donnelly. Pennell says the division will try to minimize impact to drivers who already must share those icy two-lane highways with commercial trucks, school buses and often snowplows.
“Everything that we can to keep those hassles to a minimum, including spacing between the convoys,” he said, “and we have pullover spots where the convoys will move over and let the traffic pass.”
Pennell says the division also will try to schedule convoys so they aren’t on the road during commuting hours throughout the exercise, scheduled for February 8th through the 22nd. And also afterward, when the equipment and personnel are headed back Wainwright and JBER.
“Again, we’ll be moving things back in convoys, and again, we’ll try to time those convoys so that we’re not on the road during the morning or evening drive time.”
A Department of Transportation spokesperson said Friday it will try to provide as much information as possible about problems that could cause delays on the department’s 511.alaska.gov website.