JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Next week, the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry (Airborne), 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division is scheduled to jump with Australian jumpmasters as part of the joint forcible entry operation dubbed Operation Talisman Saber.
The operation serves two primary functions.
"The purpose of the exercise is first and foremost to reinforce our bilateral relationship with Australia," said Lt. Col. Matthew Hardman, commander of the 3-509th. "For us it's all about deterring potential adversaries and reassuring neighbors, and we do that together.
"Peace comes from that."
Talisman Saber is routinely performed every other year, but the scope of the operation is anything but ordinary, Hardman said.
They will jump into the Kapyong Drop Zone - named after a historic battle in the Korean war - in Shoalwater Bay Training Area, Queensland, Australia.
The troops will leave JBER, fly more than a dozen hours, and exit an aircraft on a continent many of them have never been to before while under operational leadership from another country. Afterward, they will perform ground operations for the rest of the day before turning around and flying back to Alaska to do it all over again the next day at the Malemute Drop Zone, Hardman said.
"It's as close to as real as possible," Hardman said. "I think the [troops] are looking forward to that."
Successfully completing the operation requires the strategic assistance of the Navy, Marines and Air Force, Hardman said.
"There's a joint strategic reach capability that's critical here, our ability to reinforce and support allies as well as to respond to crisis around the world," Hardman said.
"Demonstrating that capability is critical to show we are able to do what we say we can do."
Part of that strategic reach is careful and efficient planning coupled with effective communication with sister branches and Australian forces.
To that end, over the past two and a half weeks, a few Australian jumpmasters and instructors have been at JBER to help prepare 3-509th paratroopers for the operation ahead of them.
"We've been working with the battle preparation with the 509th and going through jump rehearsals," said Warrant Officer Class 2 Roderick Orchard, a jumpmaster and instructor with the Australian Army. "The troops here are very professional."
Jumping into a foreign continent can be scary, but Australia, like Alaska, is well known for its unique wildlife.
"That's probably the number one thing we've been asked," Orchard said. "What's going to bite me and kill me?"
Both parties received briefings concerning the unique dangers of the other's operating environment; something they share lighthearted jokes about.
While wildlife safety is something which is taken seriously, sometimes a bit of good-natured humor can help assuage concerns.
"We have nine of the most venomous snakes in the world," Orchard said. "We've got lots of vaccines for our snakes, but I have yet to see a bear vaccine!"
To prepare 3-509th paratroopers for the operation, Orchard and his compatriots have jumped with them here in their own drop zone over the past few weeks.
The drop zone was named after the Battle of Kapyong, Korea, April 23 and 24, 1951, in which the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment forces held their position against overwhelming odds as enemy forces attempted to recapture the city of Seoul.
According to the Australian War Memorial's website, the Battle of Kapyong became known as the most significant and important battle for Australian troops in the Korean War.
The Australian regiment received support from Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry during the battle, and were relieved by U.S. Army troops.
Both the Australian and Canadian battalions received United States Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations for their part in the battle.
The same interoperability that provided success in that battle is still being honed today through Operation Talisman Saber.
"The 509th's been a great host since we've been here," Orchard said. "It's been great to work with you guys and see the procedures and see how they work.
"You've been doing a great job - and I'll be looking forward to working with you again."