MNBG-E paratroopers descend into western Kosovo
May 12, 2014
DAKOVICA, Kosovo (May 12, 2014) -- For the 36 Multinational Battle Group-East paratroopers from Kosovo Force who descended 1,000 feet using specialized parachutes onto Dakovica Airfield, May 12, the historical airborne operation was a first for even many of the unit's seasoned jumpers.
"It was a fun experience to jump in another country as I've only jumped in America and then jumping on a newly surveyed [drop zone] was a pretty unique experience," said Staff Sgt. Tyler Holt, a Soldier with 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, who had previously completed nearly 100 jumps. "I've jumped on airfields before at Fort Bragg [N.C.], so that wasn't much different, but I thought it was just a fun experience to be involved in a little bit of history."
Although the squadron had conducted airborne training last month at Camp Bondsteel, the first jump in Kosovo in over 10 years, in this jump, the paratroopers used the U.S. Army's MC-6 parachute, an advanced parachute system that is more maneuverable and allows a slower descent onto a drop zone.
The unit also coordinated for a U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft to fly the soldiers to Dakovica Airfield drop zone, approximately 34 miles southwest from Kosovo's capital, Pristina. The airfield is a former airbase operated by Kosovo Force and the Italian army. Although the air strip is now abandoned, it provided a distinct opportunity for soldiers to practice descending onto an unfamiliar drop zone.
The squadron commander said the jumpers' unfamiliarity with the airfield allowed for lessons learned among the jumpmasters and Soldiers participating in the training operation.
"There's a flight landing strip going right down the middle with all the runway lights and buildings and a lot of concrete, things that our jumpers aren't used to seeing when they come out the door of an aircraft," said Lt. Col. John Cogbill, commander of 2nd Bn., 38th Cav. Regt. and MNBG-E's Forward Command Post. "Good lessons were learned by everybody; for our jumpmasters having to stay oriented on unfamiliar terrain and then for every soldier that jumped about how to control their canopy and land safely on the drop zone."
Most of the Soldiers who participated in the airborne operation serve with the squadron's Company C, a long-range surveillance company that provides reconnaissance capabilities to the U.S. Army's III Corps. The C Company commander said the jump allowed his Soldiers to maintain their proficiency in safely and securely landing in locations vital to a military commander.
"I think the Soldiers see it as both a positive effect in sustaining our skills in airborne operations, but also positive in being able to use the capabilities of the parachute to ensure they can actually drop in an advantageous location," Capt. Daniel Stephens said.
Stevens added the mission forced the company and squadron's leaders to identify those Soldiers who had used steerable parachutes before. Using a steerable parachute allows paratroopers to avoid possible problems on the drop zone.
"We identified the right soldiers to jump, as it was a more challenging drop zone, so we identified the right soldiers who had the experience with steerable parachutes. The feedback was positive and it's a challenging [drop zone]. There's concrete, which typically paratroopers don't want to land on, so with a steerable parachute, it lets you leverage the capabilities of the system while avoiding potential obstacles on the airfield," Stephens said.
For Dakovica residents and city leaders, the exercise built relationships between Kosovo Force and citizens of Kosovo, as many of the local leaders marveled at the airborne operation.
"All of the [local leaders] were very accommodating. They were very supportive when they found out what we intended to use the area for and they were excited about the operation as we were," said 1st Lt. Steven Shaw, the officer-in-charge of the squadron's Insertion and Extraction Cell and training planner for the operation. "On the jump day, almost everyone that I had met or dealt with on my various leader's recons out there, had showed up to watch us jump and when we landed, they all came up and were patting us on the back."
Cogbill said airborne operations allow the U.S. military to seize an objective by force with as many as a brigade's worth of Soldiers while giving the Department of Defense more combat power on the ground.
"You're not always going to have the ability to enter into a country through the front door; sometimes you've got to force your way in, and really that's what paratroopers provide the [DOD], is a forced-entry capability," Cogbill said. "Anywhere we can fly a C-130 or a C-17, we can put anywhere from a battalion to a brigade's worth of paratroopers on the ground…and build combat power in any area of operations in a non-permissive environment."
The squadron serves as the Forward Command Post for MNBG-E, headquartered in northern Kosovo, and responds as third responders to threats to a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement throughout Kosovo.