Exercise Atlas Drop began in 1996 as an annually scheduled exercise that helped to train US European Command's (EUCOM) forces to respond regionally. This exercise was designed to further cross training and interoperability between the US military and the country selected for the year's exercise in company level bilateral airborne operations, as well as platoon level live fire exercises. In 2008, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established, taking responsibility for US operations in much of Africa. As a result, AFRICOM took over various regional exercises previously sponsored by EUCOM, such as Atlas Drop. AFRICOM officially assumed responsibility for Exercise Atlas Drop in 2009. In 2012, the Atlas Drop was replaced by Atlas Accord.
Atlas Drop 2002, held between 14 and 25 January 2002, was led by the US Army's Southern European Task Force (SETAF). The bilateral field training and platoon level live fire training exercise was conducted in the Cap Serrat and Renal training areas of Tunisia with elements of the Tunisian armed forces. About 600 US Army and Air Force troops in Europe joined together with paratroopers form SETAF to participate in Atlas Drop 02. After the Exercise's jump exchange, paratroopers from both countries faced each other in a formation and exchanged wings at a ceremony.
SETAF's 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) led a battalion sized task force of select units from the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Infantry Regiment; the 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment; an air ambulance section from the 30th Medical Brigade; and explosive ordnance disposal specialist from Germany. The US Air Force provided transportation support from the 37th Airlift Squadron in Germany, drop zone control from the 321st Special Tactics Squadron from England, and 5 medical personnel from the Air Force Reserve Command in the United States.
During the 2-week exercise, soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) conducted a joint US-Tunisian jump exchange, live-fire exercises, and squad, platoon, and company level situational training. One change from the previous year's Atlas Drop was the addition of the 173rd Airborne Brigade's Reconnaissance Company. The Company's surveillance and hide teams positioned themselves in the hills near Cap Serrat and kept a constant lookout on the valley.
Before infantrymen from C/1-508th Infantry could conduct their live-fire assault and breach and trench line during the live-fire portion of the Exercise, engineers from the Assault and Barrier Platoon, 173rd Combat Support Company moved tons of soil, improved the wooden structure of the trench and constructed a cement culvert to help drain the trench.
Infantrymen, cavalry scouts, and pathfinders from the Georgia Army National Guard's 3rd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, assigned to the 560th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, and the soldiers from Ugandan Peoples Defense Force's 27th Infantry Battalion trained alongside each other on patrolling and clearing aerial-resupply drop zones in 3 locations in the Olilim and Kapelebyong areas of Uganda as part of Exercise Atlas Drop 2011, held between 7 and 15 February 2011. Drop Zone Red (Kapelebyong), along with Dropzones White and Blue (Olilim), was used during 3 days of live aerial-resupply practice drops that concluded Atlas Drop 11. The training conducted increased the capability of both Ugandan People's Defense Force and US forces to resupply soldiers operating in remote areas.
On 8 February 2011, members of the 197th Special Troops Company (Airborne) of the Utah Army National Guard, along with active-duty US Army and Ugandan Peoples Defense Force soldiers, stood on the open doors of a C-130 at Provo Airport, rehearsing a cargo drop to take place within the hour. The familiarization was in preparation for Atlas Drop 2011, an overseas-training mission in Uganda. Proponents from the Natick Soldier Center in Natick Massachusetts and Fort Lee, Virginia, sent out instructors and other contractors to certify riggers and familiarize other soldiers in the deployment of low-cost, low-altitude (LCLA) parachutes, Copterboxes, and Free Drop System One. The aerial delivery systems are designed to provide rations, ammunition, medical supplies and other items to ground forces. The LCLA parachutes, Copterbox, and Free Drop System One are all low-cost, disposable systems. They require less rigging knowledge and can be deployed at lower altitude, compared to their predecessor. All 3 systems were utilized during Atlas Drop 11.
During the Exercise, at Drop Zone Red, near Kapelebyong north of Soroti, US Soldiers created helicopter and C-130 aircraft models from tape, water bottles, and other available resources to provide their Ugandan counterparts with a way of visualizing what they were talking about regarding aerial resupply. US jumpmasters and parachute riggers had to figure out safe and effective ways of dropping loads from aircraft they had little experience with. US aviators showed their versatility teaching classes to UPDF aviators and helping Ugandan staff officers understand aviation operations.. The final ceremony for Atlas Drop 11 included a demonstration of Low-Cost, Low Altitude, Copter Box and free-drop aerial resupply systems by UPDF platoon and company-level leaders and Soldiers.
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