By Raymond Drumsta, New York Army National GuardJune 21, 2013
CILIDONG, Indonesia (June 21, 2013) -- Paratroopers of two nations shared the sky, mud and jump wings during Garuda Shield 13, the latest in a continuing series of exercises designed to strengthen military-to-military cooperation while focusing on international peace support operations.
Paratroopers with 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, and the Indonesian Army's 17th Airborne Brigade, made four jumps together, June 15-18, capping the last one with a joint assault on a building. The paratroopers also exchanged jump wings after the missions.
The Airborne troops filled the days leading up to the jumps with some intensive, joint training. The American troops trained the Indonesians on things like breaching and clearing buildings, and the Indonesian Soldiers taught the Americans ways to survive in the jungle -- such as catching snakes, cooking them and eating them.
The four jumps included two administrative, non-tactical jumps without equipment, and two tactical jumps with equipment. The last jump was the most important, because it also involved an assault on three buildings just off the Indonesian Army's drop zone.
Most of those who took part in the last jump belong to Bravo Company of the 1st Battalion, and the Indonesian Army's 305th Airborne Battalion, according to Bravo Company Commander Capt. Nicolas Perez, of San Juan Puerto Rico.
The Indonesian Army's drop zone, located in Dawaun, is composed of rolling terrain, interspersed with rice paddies, which Indonesians are actively farming and living near, he explained.
"It's a realistic drop zone for a real-world mission," he said. "All the ones at Fort Bragg are cleared."
The last tactical jump and assault took place from mid-morning to early afternoon, June 18. A great many of the Indonesian Soldiers jumped from a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster, using American T-11 parachutes.
Indonesian paratrooper 2nd Sgt. Teguheprastyom said he usually jumps from C-130s.
"This was the first time I jumped from a C-17," he said. "It was a good experience."
Though the T-11 parachute is heavier and can't be steered, they needed to learn to use American equipment because the two armies may work together again, he added.
Since it was an exercise, the American paratroopers had to gather their parachutes and take them to a designated pick-up point.
Getting to the pick-up point was easier said than done for 1st Lt. Louis Herrera, who experienced first-hand -- and feet first -- exactly what the drop zone was like. Herrera heard a sucking noise as he landed, fell over and realized with a shock that he'd come down in a rice paddy.
The sucking noises continued as he tried to free parachute, ruck sack and himself from the morass, said Herrera, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
"I never landed in a rice paddy," Herrera said. "It's like landing in swamp. You get wet, you get muddy and everything slows down from there."
He eventually took off his rucksack, pulled himself out, then pulled his rucksack out, Herrera recalled.
"I had to struggle quite a bit," he said. Local Indonesians helped him pull and gather his soaked, heavy parachute out of the swamp and carry it to the pick up point, he recalled with a smile.
Each company in the Indonesian Battalion linked up with a Bravo Company platoon for the assault. The idea was for the American Soldiers to provide covering firepower while the Indonesians assaulted the buildings, he explained.
"This was an operation planned and led by the Indonesian 305th Airborne Battalion," Perez explained.
However, the Indonesian Army organizational structure calls for 50 Soldiers to a company, so it was really a two-platoon operation per objective, Perez said. The mission was very decentralized, and the Indonesians commanders took the initiative and integrated U.S. troops into the assault, he added.
The Indonesians shouted war cries during their assault. They do that to raise their spirits, Teguheprastyo explained.
Herrera said he admired that.
"I wasn't sure what I was hearing," he said. "They definitely had the spirit going into battle."
The Indonesians' assault and building clearing was fast and violent, which showed they're fast learners, Herrera said.
"Their assault wasn't bad," he said. "They did everything right. They're always smooth and fast in their clearing."
With the field training finished, the paratroopers exchanged wings in ceremonies held June 20.