British paratroopers have jumped into Latvia alongside their US counterparts to show their ability to strike hard and fast in response to crises anywhere in the world.
The soldiers from C Company, 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (C Coy, 3 PARA), part of Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade, parachuted into the Adazi training area alongside American troops from 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division – known as “1 Fury”.
In an impressive display of reach and capability, the British and American Paras flew into the Baltics directly from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in a fleet of US Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft, before jumping into the drop zone (DZ) together with heavy equipment including vehicles and vital stores.
This jump comes as part of Ex SABER STRIKE, a major US-led NATO training exercise spanning the Baltic states and involving around 18,000 troops from 19 member nations, designed to further develop allied interoperability and hone the participating soldiers’ understanding of one another’s tactics and operating procedures.
The preceding days saw the men of C Coy training and living alongside their American partners, doing several training jumps on US parachutes, and conducting dynamic live-firing packages on the ranges at Fort Bragg.
Once on the ground, the paratroopers converged on a number of pre-designated rally points before moving off to accomplish their allotted tactical missions, negotiating challenging terrain weighed down with heavy loads of weaponry and equipment, and in some cases fighting their way onto multiple follow-on objectives.
Speaking moments after landing, Colonel Andrew Jackson, Deputy Commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, described the exercise as ‘a clear and unmistakable show of airborne strength on a global scale’.
He said: “There’s a reason why most of the world’s reference armies still maintain an airborne capability, because in strategic terms it’s not possible to get this many men and this much equipment anywhere on the globe so quickly by any other means. This is a very public statement that the 82nd Airborne Division GRF (Global Response Force), with 16 Brigade as part of it, is able to project significant force at short notice.”
Exercises like this are crucial in developing the skills and self-belief of young paratroopers at the start of their career. The troops have jumped four or five times in the last few weeks from different types of aircraft, with different rigs and different parachutes.
Lieutenant Max Ramsden, a junior officer in C Coy, 3 PARA, said the exercise had provided an invaluable learning experience for him and his men.
“I’ve found working with the Americans really useful. Obviously they have a different spin on things, but actually at the end of the day we’re very similar and we definitely learn a lot from each other. Because of the scale of this operation it’s key that we remain flexible, but we have a similar outlook on life.”
“A big one for me and the rest of the blokes is the confidence this gives us. We’ve done a load of jumps now, and all have been very successful.”
Lance Corporal Roshine Shaw, also of C Coy, 3 PARA, said he’d taken a huge amount away from the exercise, with the intensive parachuting a particular highlight.
“The jumping’s been amazing I’ve done four jumps in two weeks with the C company blokes and 1 Fury. They’re the highest jumps I’ve done so far. I’ve learned that with a lot of equipment you can end up with hideous twists! But other than that it’s been amazing, and it just shows you that you can get anywhere at any time with paratroopers.”
“What I’ll take away from this experience is different skills, different tactics, experience of a different parachute, and different aircraft, so I’m learning a lot of new drills.”
1 Fury’s Specialist Austin Hilden said he’d relished the opportunity to spend so much time with his British counterparts, sharing their knowledge and building even stronger bonds between their units.
“We both go headstrong into a battle, we both love training and getting to shoot our weapons. They have a different Standard Operating Procedure from ours, so we get to see what they do in certain instances, and if, let’s say, we need them to flank to the side, we know what they’re going to do because we’ve trained with them enough.”