Sky Soldiers Come Home
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment arrive at Aviano Air Force Base, Italy, May 23, 2022 from a deployment to Latvia to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to our NATO Allies and to bolster defensive capabilities. During the deployment, the paratroopers conducted multiple training exercises with NATO allies, including Saber Strike. They increased overall combat effectiveness and cohesion between the 173rd Airborne Brigade and other NATO forces.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to the United States European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility. Forward deployed across Italy and Germany, the brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build partnerships and strengthen the alliance.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk)
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Sky Soldiers Come Home
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment arrive at Aviano Air Force Base, Italy, May 23, 2022 from a deployment to Latvia to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to our NATO Allies and to bolster defensive capabilities. During the deployment, the paratroopers conducted multiple training exercises with NATO allies, including Saber Strike. They increased overall combat effectiveness and cohesion between the 173rd Airborne Brigade and other NATO forces.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to the United States European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility. Forward deployed across Italy and Germany, the brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build partnerships and strengthen the alliance.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. John Yountz) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. John Yountz)
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Sky Soldiers Come Home
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment arrive at Aviano Air Force Base, Italy, May 23, 2022 from a deployment to Latvia to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to our NATO Allies and to bolster defensive capabilities. During the deployment, the paratroopers conducted multiple training exercises with NATO allies, including Saber Strike. They increased overall combat effectiveness and cohesion between the 173rd Airborne Brigade and other NATO forces.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to the United States European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility. Forward deployed across Italy and Germany, the brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build partnerships and strengthen the alliance.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. John Yountz) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. John Yountz)
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Sky Soldiers Come Home
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment arrive at Aviano Air Force Base, Italy, May 23, 2022 from a deployment to Latvia to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to our NATO Allies and to bolster defensive capabilities. During the deployment, the paratroopers conducted multiple training exercises with NATO allies, including Saber Strike. They increased overall combat effectiveness and cohesion between the 173rd Airborne Brigade and other NATO forces.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to the United States European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility. Forward deployed across Italy and Germany, the brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build partnerships and strengthen the alliance.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk)
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Sky Soldiers Come Home
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment arrive at Aviano Air Force Base, Italy, May 23, 2022 from a deployment to Latvia to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to our NATO Allies and to bolster defensive capabilities. During the deployment, the paratroopers conducted multiple training exercises with NATO allies, including Saber Strike. They increased overall combat effectiveness and cohesion between the 173rd Airborne Brigade and other NATO forces.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to the United States European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility. Forward deployed across Italy and Germany, the brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build partnerships and strengthen the alliance.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. John Yountz) (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. John Yountz)
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VICENZA, Italy – On Feb. 24, 2022, day one of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the 173rd Airborne Brigade deployed a contingent of paratroopers or “Sky Soldiers” to Camp Adazi in Latvia. Exactly three months later, their reassurance mission was complete and they returned to the 173rd in Vicenza, Italy.

The called-upon paratroopers were assigned to 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Rock.” 330 of them deployed within 17 hours of notification, finally putting all of their readiness and rapid deployment training to the test. They reported into work on Feb. 23 as if it was any other day and ended up being called upon to join other NATO forces in Latvia.

Their deployment was not a standard mission set. Latvia is a member of NATO and not a combat zone. The Sky Soldiers quickly arrived at Camp Adazi to find many other NATO soldiers from all over the continent, including Italy, Canada, Spain, and recently Denmark. As their movement separated the battalion by half, members of the Rock had quickly developed strong relationships with the other NATO members in their new neighborhood.

The Sky Soldiers were deployed there to demonstrate the United States' commitment to our NATO Allies and to bolster defensive capabilities. While in Latvia, the deployed battalion conducted numerous tactical exercises to increase interoperability and readiness, including exercise Saber Strike 22 and allied airborne operations with other nations’ paratroopers, earning Canadian jump wings for a large portion of their deployed formation.

From weapons familiarization to physical training competitions, members of the Rock fit right in with other members of the alliance, demonstrating the interoperability that the 173rd continuously seeks. Being in Latvia didn’t stop them from completing the annual Darby 40 Mile Ranger Challenge, normally held at Lake Garda, Italy.

According the Lt. Col. Kevin Ward, the Battalion Commander for 2-503, it was the spirit and consistent motivation of the individual Sky Soldier that kept the unit successful over three months of uncertainty.

“The ethos embedded in the sinews of Rock Paratroopers keeps them eager and ready to answer the call of duty, whether that be jumping behind enemy lines or deterring aggression on NATO’s northeastern front. This same spirit drove 2-503’s paratroopers to accomplish intense and relentless training while deployed to Latvia, which was singularly focused on what they would need to execute in its defense.”

“Through individual, small unit, collective, and multinational training, the Rock honed its lethality and capabilities to a fine edge and drastically increased its capacity. I am immensely proud of how the individual Paratrooper exercised the drive and initiative to improve themselves and their team every day, ensuring that collectively we were ready to face any opposition.”

The final plane of returning Sky Soldiers arrived at Aviano Air Base on May 25, greeted by friends, family and warm Italian weather.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army's Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to the United States European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility. Forward deployed across Italy and Germany, the brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build partnerships and strengthen the alliance.