VICENZA, Italy - In an emergency situation, knowing where you are going can mean the difference between life and death.

Land navigation can be a difficult skill to learn but even more difficult to master. Sometimes to be the best you have to step outside your comfort zone and try something new, which is exactly what four Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team did late last month.

Spc. Francisco Reyes, Spc. Jesse Sampson, Pfc. Andrew Gabbard and Pvt. Garrett Bledsoe were selected to be the first Vicenza-based 173rd ABCT Soldiers to train with the 1st Tuscania Parachute Regiment, a division of the Italian Carabinieri Police Force. The Tuscania are a special operations-capable unit that can deploy anywhere in the world and the only airborne group within the Carabinieri.

Over the course of three weeks beginning Jan. 14, the Sky Soldiers studied advanced land navigation under the guidance of Michele D'Agostino and Riccardo Carbonatti, two distinguished veterans of the 1st Tuscania Parachute Regiment. From the classroom to the field, these instructors provided expert training and guidance every step of the way.

"The instruction was great," said Reyes. "I was surprised at how much I didn't know and how much I learned. These instructors definitely taught us valuable lessons that I have not learned from any of my previous training exercises."

The 173rd Soldiers navigated both day and night time scenarios that covered several miles of land, learning quickly that to succeed they would need each other. They quickly formed a bond with their Italian counterparts and through their new found friendships completed the exhausting training successfully. All four of the American Soldiers graduated the land navigation course Feb. 1.

"This training is great, and what is great about it is the fact that we get to train with someone new," said Master Sgt. Melvyn Lopez, the 173rd ABCT's Air Operations noncommissioned officer in charge. "It is always a good thing when we can expand our partnership with more Italian forces."

"Working with a foreign military was exciting because you got the chance to see how they operated and spot the differences in the execution," said Reyes. "I would definitely like to work with them again."

In total, there are nine phases to the 1st Tuscania Parachute Regiment's training program. In the months ahead, the units will work together to give more Sky Soldiers the opportunity to participate in this exclusive training exercise.

Page last updated Thu February 14th, 2013 at 00:00