Soldiers assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) moved out to the field environment Nov. 1 to begin Operation Lethal Eagle, a 21-day exercise, to increase the readiness and lethality of the world’s premier air assault division.
“We need to be ready to operate in the field for an extended period of time and do extended operations,” said Maj. Gen. JP McGee, commanding general of the 101st Abn. Div. and Fort Campbell. “We must be skilled in bringing all our divisional assets to bear, for this future fight.”
One of those divisional assets is the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion’s S1. The morning the exercise began, Spc. Mark Wolmarans manifested each Soldier in HHB before they moved to the different exercise areas, whether that was the division tactical assault command, DTAC, division main, DMAIN, or support area command post, SACP.
“We’re getting accountability of each person, and the lists we create will be given to the chalk leaders so that we can keep accountability at all times between here and moving to the field environment,” Wolmarans said.
Although the initial manifest is crucial to the beginning of the exercise, the S1 will continue to assist the division in the overall training effort, he said.
“What we will be doing while in the field is personnel accountability at all times,” Wolmarans said. “That includes reporting anything from a Soldier leaving to go back to the rear detachment or any accidents or casualties that may occur.”
The 101st Abn. Div. Soldiers will use this time to reinstate an air assault culture, McGee said.
“We will take full advantage of this time to install high standards within our division on our most critical task, the ability to conduct air assault operations,” he said. “This operation will also allow us to work on issues like mission command and sustainment in the field for an extended period of time.”
Lethal Eagle will be beneficial for the 101st Abn. Div. as it provides an opportunity to exercise some of the division’s tasks that may have been stagnant over the last year or two, said Maj. Andrew Ziskin, G5, Division Operations Research Systems Analyst.
“We need to exercise some of the things that may have gone stale,” Ziskin said. “By moving the entire division out at once, I think the commanding general has some clear ideas of what he wants to achieve while we are out in the field.”
Ziskin’s role in the planning process was determining the metrics the division commander wants to use to assess the units’ operations in the field, in particular, the training and objectives they are trying to achieve, how they are going to measure their performance and effectiveness.
“I look at data and analysis as well as improve some of the systems for the staff,” he said. “My role will be answering the division commander’s questions on assessing the training and everything that’s being done in the field, so the progress, whether or not they’re meeting their training objectives, etc., and also improving some of the division staff’s processes and their data collection.”
Ziskin is excited to be out in the field exercise not only because he hasn’t been in the field for quite some time, but because he has the opportunity to guide and train junior Soldiers and focus on the squad, platoon and company-level tasks that reinforce their combat roles.
“I haven’t been out in the field for about five or six years, so this is one of the times where I, as a senior leader, get to come out and do some of things that I haven’t done myself for a while,” he said. “I have some things that I would like to achieve and I think that as a whole, our division headquarters has some things that we can achieve too.”
Having senior leaders next to Soldiers in the field is important, Ziskin said. It demonstrates leaders won’t do anything or won’t tell Soldiers to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. Additionally, they can exercise some of the same skills in terms of life skills in the field – everything Soldiers do, senior leaders need to be a part of that.