ARNHEM, Netherlands-- Participants from 12 NATO Allied forces and local citizens paid homage to the 77th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden by gathering at a series of drop zones across the Netherlands and Belgium to observe one thousand Soldiers parachuting from U.S. Air Force C-130s and Allied force aircrafts during Falcon Leap, NATO's largest technical Airborne exercise Sept. 11-19, in the Netherlands.
Thirty-two Texas Army National Guard Soldiers participated in the event earning Allied Nation Airborne wings from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland.
“The importance of us being here is to train on interoperability with our multinational partners so that if we have to go into large scale combat operations we are proficient with their aircraft, their parachutes and their jumpmaster commands," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Karim Branford, commander of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry Regiment.
“We are also here to build that camaraderie and esprit de corps with our multinational partners and pay respect and homage to those paratroopers who made the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Market Garden and celebrate what they did.”
Participating Texas Army National Guard units included the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 294th Quartermaster Company, 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 36th Sustainment Brigade, and the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 71st Troop Command.
The 143rd Infantry Regiment has a special case partnership with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, aligning active and reserve units with one another for training and deployment.
Hosted by the Dutch 11 Air Assault Brigade from Schaarsbergen, the event highlighted interoperability in observance of the 77th Anniversary of Operation Market Garden.
“77 years ago paratroopers landed on Dutch soil in one of the largest airborne operations ever,” said Brig. Gen. L.A.W (Cas) Schreurs, commander of the 11th Air Assault Brigade, the Royal Netherlands Army.
“They fought fiercely and bravely in the battle that took place in the vicinity of our barracks. Falcon Leap brings paratroopers from many countries together in one of Europe’s largest airborne exercises.”
The exercise included more than 1,000 paratroopers from all over the world, 12 different nationalities, multiple airdrops per day, and training with each other’s equipment for two weeks.
“When we are called upon by our respective nations, most likely we will fight in collaboration with coalition forces-- at that moment interoperability is key,” Schreurs added.
Participating countries include Belgium, Chile, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, the United States, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
The Texas National Guard Soldiers gained an understanding of similarities and differences between the countries airborne standard operating procedures, ultimately enhancing their combat readiness and cohesion for future operations.
“We are working with other compo one (active army component) units showing our interoperability and our standards are the same as other compo one units as far as training, knowledge and experience,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jared Zuniga, first sergeant for the 294th Quartermaster Company, 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
“For Texas to keep doing this and showing active and reserve units that the National Guard is an interchangeable fighting force--that is very important.”