Ready, Agile and Lethal in Urban Terrain; Paratroopers Train for Combat In Megacities and Subterranean Environments

Paratroopers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division spent most of March training to fight and win in megacity and subterranean environments.

The paratroopers, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, trained at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, to learn concepts of megacity and subterranean warfare that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley is confident will be applied in the near future.

A Paratrooper assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment clears a subway train at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., March 21, 2018. The platoons operating in dense urban terrain learned many lessons with respect to operating in megacity environments. U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle, 3rd BCT Public Affairs

“We wanted to expose our paratroopers to the realities of fighting in megacities and subterranean environments while dealing with chemical threats,” said Lt. Col. Robert McChrystal, the 1-508th PIR’s battalion commander. “Our goal was to build confidence in their equipment and themselves while teaching them the basics of how to operate in environments we don’t often get to train in.”

Training for combat in chemically-contaminated urban environments presented paratroopers with significant challenges. Often, those challenges required them to alter standing operating procedures and equipment postures to continue their mission.

“Paratroopers trained to don their chemical protective mask at the first sign of a chemical attack or when conducting missions specifically targeting chemical munition facilities,” said Maj. Adam Scher, the Battalion executive officer. “They quickly discovered the sight picture through night vision is altered when wearing the masks. Paratroopers adapted to this challenge by adjusting their helmet mounts to operate effectively in limited-light CBRNE environments.”

A Paratrooper assigned to Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment breaches a door during a nighttime air assault of a notional enemy compound at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., March 16, 2018. The platoons operating in dense urban terrain learned many lessons with respect to operating in megacity environments.

Another challenge presented to the 1-508th paratroopers was combat in underground facilities and tunnels. The challenge is twofold in subterranean environments; both light and space are often in short supply. McChrystal stated that platoons operating in dense urban terrain learned many lessons with respect to operating in megacity environments.

“On-the-ground leaders learned the best practice of mounting night vision goggles even during daytime operations,” said McChrystal. “This prepared them for a rapid or unexpected transition to conduct operations in underground facilities like subway systems or tunnels with limited lighting.’

‘Paratroopers also identified the need to reconfigure the wear of some combat equipment to better navigate confined spaces like those found in underground facilities and utility tunnels,” continued McChrystal.

The megacity and subterranean environments challenged paratroopers to adapt and apply ingenuity to accomplish their mission. Often, on-the-ground leaders generated the solutions and spread them as best practices to other elements within the battalion.

Through the training, Scher said a culture of winning and adaptability formed and it helped convince their team they are agile, ready and lethal in urban terrain.

“We now have a group of junior leaders exposed to cutting-edge training, new tactics and procedures,” said Scher. “They came away with newfound confidence in their ability to design their own training plans to ensure the 1-508th will always be ready to jump, fight and win tonight.”

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