How the US military trains to take any airbase, anywhere in the world, in just 18 hours

Paratroopers operation dragon spearStaff Sgt. Jason HullParatroopers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, begin an assault on an enemy-held urban environment as part of a live-fire range at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, August 10, 2015.

What happens when all hell breaks loose and the US military needs to act within hours?

Enter the 5,000 specialists of Global Response Force, from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Brigade, Joint Special Operations Command, and the US Air Force, capable of deploying to any location on earth within 18 hours. 

“We need to have demonstrated legitimacy in this capability. It’s our muscle. It’s us flexing our muscle. Nobody wants to get in the ring with the undefeated heavyweight champion,” Staff Sgt. Dillon Heyliger said of the GRF.

In the slides below see how the GRF trains to take enemy airfields with overwhelming force.

The first wave is an airborne assault with the goal of taking control of an enemy airfield.

US Army Photo

Within minutes, paratroopers are on the ground putting heavy lead downrange.

Spc. Francisco Matinez, an automated logistical specialist assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provides security during a tactical logistics convoy across the desert at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, August 11, 2015.

As with any good military exercise, casualties and injuries are simulated to help train field medics.

Paratroopers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provide immediate medical aid to a simulated gunshot casualty during a tactical logistics convoy across the desert at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, August 11, 2015.

Specialised vehicles pour an overwhelming number of soldiers onto the scene.

In addition to infantry, sniper teams provide support during the mission ...

Snipers in ghillie suits hide among the brush during Operation Dragon Spear.

... and they're gone as quickly as they came.

High-mobility artillery rocket systems live up to their name and quickly launch devastating salvos against the enemy.

As the night rolls in, AH-64 Apache helicopters fly and light up the sky with their 30 mm guns.

Once the first wave secures the area, they prepare for the second echelon of aircraft and heavy vehicles to move in. Armoured vehicles are flown in to reinforce the infantry's gains.

82nd Airborne Division photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull
A Stryker vehicle from the 2nd Infantry Division rolls out of a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft following a joint forcible-entry operation for Operation Dragon Spear at Fort Irwin, California, August 6, 2015.

Here come the Abrams and Bradley tanks.

Paratroopers complete the raid of the airbase, and use it in the future as a forward operating base for US forces.

Paratroopers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, clear buildings during an assault on an enemy-held urban environment at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, August 10, 2015.

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