VARPALOTA, Hungary - American paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and allies from the Hungarian Defense Forces executed the combined allied exercise Warlord Rock here and Papa Air Base Feb. 22 through March 3, 2015.
The two-part exercise, a joint forcible early entry exercise followed by a combined live-fire range, was designed to improve planning and operational interoperability between the paratroopers of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment and the Hungarian army's 25th Infantry Brigade.
"The planning of this operation was one of the greatest successes of this mission," said Capt. Dana M. Gingrich, an assistant operations officer with 2nd Battalion. "Conducting parallel planning between our two forces in both Hungary and Italy helped to create a common and shared understanding of the mission."
After the final planning was conducted in Hungary, a platoon of Hungarian paratroopers flew to Aviano Air Base, Italy, where they joined the American battalion, based out of Vicenza, Italy, and conducted a final rehearsal prior to loading two C-130 Hercules aircraft from the U.S. Air Force's 86th Airlift Wing and a C-17 from the international Heavy Airlift Wing.
"We've worked with the 173rd before," said Hungarian army 1st Lt. Ede Enekes, a platoon leader with the 88th Light Mixed Battalion, 25th Infantry Brigade. "These Sky Soldiers are more experienced with full-scale, battalion-level airborne operations and that is why the Hungarian army knows that this is a great opportunity for us to train with them."
Three lifts of combat-loaded paratroopers took off from Aviano and parachuted onto Papa Air Base, where the two nations worked together to seize and secure the airfield against Hungarian special operations forces, who were acting as an opposing force. The American ambassador to Budapest, officials from the Hungarian Ministry of Defense, and Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commanding general, U.S. Army Europe, observed the training.
As an airborne unit, this is one of the things that 173rd can do - seize and take control of hostile airfields, said 1st Lt. John R. Todd, a platoon leader with Company B, 2nd Battalion. In today's world, the brigade must be prepared for whatever is next - in either humanitarian or combat environments - the U.S. must be able to work with its European allies.
For the Hungarian paratroopers, this was an exercise that allowed them to train outside of their normal boundaries.
"It's rare for us to do battalion-sized airborne operations," said Enekes. "Working with [the 173rd] was a great opportunity to work in an international situation with a large amount of people and equipment. To be integrated into a larger element certainly developed the readiness of the Hungarian paratroopers."
After the airfield seizure, American paratroopers from Company D traveled to the Hungarian garrison in Varpolta to train with Hungarian soldiers from the 62nd Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Brigade on a live fire range with a variety of American and Hungarian weapons.
"We were all in trenches with TOW [anti-tank] missiles and M240 machine guns," said Pfc. Desmond Lee, an infantryman with Company D. "Working with the Hungarians was pretty cool - we gained experience, strengthened our NATO relationship and we all had a pretty good time."
Besides providing training for the two allied forces, the exercise also highlighted one of the benefits of having an American brigade forwardly-positioned in Europe.
"Exercises like this show that we have very strong partnerships in Europe," said Staff Sgt. Dillon Brown, a section sergeant with Co. D. "These relationships enable us to go all around and successfully train with our allies and partners."
The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, capable of projecting a full spectrum of operations across the U.S. European, Africa and Central Command areas of operations.