British, American soldiers train together at Fort Drum
FORT DRUM, N.Y. — As the sun rose over the post’s ranges early Thursday, American and British soldiers pushed through packed snow and the sound of gunfire into a small fictional village.
Entering a two-story building made of shipping containers, the soldiers kicked off their snowshoes before searching the space top to bottom for enemy fighters. In addition to fighting an enemy military force, soldiers were watching for third-party insurgents. With the threat cleared, it was on to the next building.
The paired building raids were the culmination of about three weeks of training for Operation Commando Rattlesnake, done by members of the 10th Mountain Division’s 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team and Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, The Rifles, from Beachley Barracks, Wales.
Between the snow and the expansive space for maneuvers, the post gave the British group of more than 100 something it can’t replicate at home.
“It’s important to go out on an exercise and get that first hand,” said Lt. Jack Brown, one of the British platoon commanders.
British Cpl. Anthony Chevrier, a section commander, said that beyond some initial cultural differences, there wasn’t much that set the two groups apart.
“Soldiering is soldiering throughout the world,” he said. The skills learned in the training, such as self-preservation in the cold, are critical in battle where “the game changes 1,000 times a day.”
It was a learning process for the Americans involved in the exercise as well, comparing and contrasting techniques between their work.
Capt. Jonathan R. Roselle, commander of the American battalion’s Charlie Company, said one thing he noticed with his British counterparts was a more methodical approach to security when moving between positions, compared with a more aggressive method by his own soldiers.
“We need to learn from them,” he said.
Capt. Roselle said that if needed, the two sides could easily work together in future operations. He said his soldiers also could benefit from learning about British culture from their counterparts.
It also was noted that the exercise takes place as the north country marks the bicentennial of the War of 1812, fought between the two countries.
The war was something the two sides laughed about, Capt. Roselle said, since “we beat them a second time. They have good humor about it.”
The good spirits between the two nations’ militaries go straight to the top. On Wednesday, American Defense Secretary Charles Hagel held a joint news conference with his British counterpart, Philip Hammond. The two shared their opposition to Russian action in Crimea and also said budget constraints could lead to coordination between the U.S. and the United Kingdom on things such as special operations forces, intelligence and drones.
At the local level, Fort Drum is already accustomed to having a British presence. Maj. Gareth J. Boyd, of the British Army’s Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, serves as the 10th Mountain Division’s chief of future operations, through a military exchange program.
Video from Thursday’s training exercise can be viewed at http://wdt.me/commando-rattlesnake.