ZYQIEC, Poland - Countryside views and mountainous landscapes are not an uncommon sight for paratroopers who train rigorously and maneuver challenging terrain on a regular basis. However taking in these sights from a sailboat is an exceptional opportunity, sure to leave a lasting impression.
Paratroopers assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, traded their parachutes in exchange for sails during a trip to Zyqiec Lake in Zyqiec, Poland, Sep. 29, 2016.
The "Sky Soldiers" of D Co., 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt. are in Poland on a training rotation in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, a U.S. led effort in Eastern Europe that demonstrates U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region.
Since their arrival in Poland Sep. 12, the Sky Soldiers have been focused on training objectives and making the most of each opportunity they have to work with and learn from their Polish counterparts.
The sailing excursion was organized by the Polish 18th Airborne Battalion, 6th Airborne Brigade, based in nearby Bielsko-Biala, Poland, and provided the paratroopers with a brief chance to unwind.
"We definitely hit the ground running, so this was a nice break to be able to see the Polish countryside and get out on the water in such nice weather," said Spc. Benjamin Kelley, infantryman, D Co., 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt. "It was a really good opportunity."
For many of the paratroopers it was their very first time on a sailboat, a unique experience none of them expected to have here in Poland.
"It was a lot of fun and nice to be able to see how it works, seeing the physics behind how the sails operate," said Pfc. Preston Pickett, infantryman, D Co., 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt.
The paratroopers divided into small groups of six to eight people per vessel. Onboard, they took turns controlling the front sail and rowing in and out of port.
"It boosts morale and self-confidence just working together as a team and completing something new," said Sgt. Collin Weltz, squad leader, D Co., 2nd Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt.
Some of the paratroopers are uneasy around water, Weltz explained. For them to be confined to a small boat, rocking side-to-side with water spilling over the edge, builds a sense of camaraderie.
Taking advantage of an unusual training opportunity, Weltz hopes the paratroopers gained some additional confidence in their ability to try something new and make it back together as a team.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct a full range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Command areas of responsibility within 18 hours.
U.S. Army Europe is uniquely positioned in its 51 country area of responsibility to advance American strategic interests in Europe and Eurasia. The relationships we build during more than 1,000 theater security cooperation events in more than 40 countries each year lead directly to support for multinational contingency operations around the world, strengthen regional partnerships and enhance global security.