Fort Bragg, German paratroopers team up for joint airborne operation
October 30, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - In German: American Airborne Soldaten freuen uns auf den Tag, sie kAfAPnnen an Bord einer Ebene und rufen Befehle in einer fremden Sprache. Or, paraphrased in English: Part of the experience of being an American paratrooper involves an odd desire to one day board a plane and shout commands in a foreign language.
Why' Because that scene would probably occur during a joint operation with a foreign army, an operation which just might end with paratroopers holding a shiny new set of jump wings.
But giving out new jump wings is more or less the icing on the cake, explained Scott Murray, air officer for the XVIII Airborne Corps and the G-3's executive agent on a joint airborne operation known as Federal Eagle.
Federal Eagle is a biannual event involving U.S. and German militaries in cooperative airborne operations held this year Oct. 20 through Saturday at Sicily Drop Zone.
Twice a year, American and German paratroopers team up to share airborne tactics, said Lt. Col. Christoph BAfAPecker, German liaison officer with the XVIII Abn. Corps. In the spring, the shared tactics stick primarily to free fall airborne operations.
But each fall, in a tradition going back 13 years, six German jumpmasters from Germany's 31st Airborne Brigade and about 750 U.S. paratroopers conduct a series of static-line airborne jumps placing paratroopers down on to one of Fort Bragg's drop zones. On the last day of the event, a reciprocal jump is held where the German jumpmasters exit an aircraft led by American jumpmasters.
"Federal Eagle is also a chance to get some U.S. guys the German jump wings and the opportunity to jump out of a German airplane," said Sgt. Maj. Alexander H. GAfAPeb, who also serves as a German liaison officer with the XVIII Abn. Corps.
"We speak the same language," said GAfAPeb, who originates from Bavaria, Germany.
"German and American paratroopers, we are both equal, we're jumping out of a flying airplane. That's crazy!" he said.
BAfAPecker explained that the airplane used on nearly every Federal Eagle jump is a German C-160, an aircraft similar to the C-130 used by the U.S. Air Force and familiar to many American paratroopers.
The T-10 parachutes used during Federal Eagle were also familiar to the Americans.
Which is all to say that much of Federal Eagle's procedures this year were already familiar to the paratroopers involved, including the hand motions of the German jump masters.
But the verbal commands of the six jumpmasters - shouted in German then echoed back by all the paratroopers lined up side by side in the C-160 flying 1,300 feet above ground - may have sounded foreign, but their meaning was well understood.
At least that's how Spc. Michael Callahan recalled the scene once he'd landed safely on the drop zone.
"I don't know any German, but I know the motions for 'hook up and check static line' and all that we go through as paratroopers," said Callahan, a paratrooper with Fort Bragg's C Troop, 1st Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment.
Callahan, an Ithaca, N.Y. native, arrived at Sicily Drop Zone with Soldiers and paratroopers of the 1st Sqdn., 38th Cav. Regt. Every year, a different element of Soldiers gets the task of helping to coordinate the finer details of Federal Eagle.
Though these details could seem tedious, they wind up affording the paratroopers the privilege of jumping with German jumpmasters - a task they understand is a rare honor, as well as one which translates to a set of foreign jump wings for their Army dress uniforms.
"I've been looking forward to this since I came to Fort Bragg," said Pfc. Alina Zamora, a San Diego native and medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Special Troops Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division.
"It really was amazing and there was nobody hesitating to get out the door at all today."
All clear for another year
For everyone present at the drop zone, Family members and Soldiers both German and American, the skies remained clear and temperatures stayed just below 70 for most of the day.
This year's Federal Eagle event could hardly have gone better, which puts a little bit of pressure on next year's Federal Eagle events.
Until then, GAfAPeb said he and BAfAPecker will do the best they can to ensure Federal Eagle stays a safe, biannual event on Fort Bragg. That's because, as BAfAPecker explained, there is the possibility that German and American paratroopers will need to make a combined jump someday, somewhere. Both armies need to be ready in case those circumstances happen to come up.
In the meantime, said GAfAPeb, "We look forward to Federal Eagle; it gives us a chance to give something back to the United States."