By Pfc. Kissta M. Feldner, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div., PAOOctober 8, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - More than 100 paratroopers from Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Kuwait arrived at Fort Bragg on Sept. 26, to take part in Operation Bright Star, a multi-national training exercise bringing together Soldiers from different nations to train, teach, and learn from each other.
"This is a joint forces operation for U.S. and coalition forces to conduct operations and share knowledge," said Sgt. Major Donald Knapp, sergeant major of operations for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, who was one of the key planners for the operation.
The month-long exercise takes place on two continents. The coalition and U.S. forces will train at Fort Bragg for two weeks, then travel to Egypt mid-October for the remainder of the mission.
The Fort Bragg portion of the exercise is being hosted by the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd BCT, which is currently on call as the Army component of the global response force.
While at Fort Bragg, the coalition forces will train with U.S. weapons, learn American tactics, techniques and procedures for a variety of battle drills, conduct airborne operations and build cultural understanding through events such as a trip to the Airborne and Special Operations Museum.
To prepare for the arrival of the coalition forces, paratroopers with the 2nd BCT underwent training to learn about the other nations' cultures in order to show respect and not accidentally offend their guests, said Sgt. William Brooks, of Company A, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment.
"It's good to do this so we can get the barriers out of the way," Brooks said. "So when the time comes (and we have to work together in combat), all that's behind us and we can get right to the fight."
The U.S. and international forces participated in "friendship jumps" on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. The airborne operations gave the paratroopers the opportunity to earn coveted foreign jump wings, as well as build camaraderie during the training and the jump itself.
"Oftentimes, you think you're the only airborne unit in the world, but it's nice to know that, not just you, but your allies too, have this capability," Brooks said.
In addition to cultural differences, the language barrier was an obvious obstacle. To overcome it, the Soldiers communicated however they could, either through an interpreter, using hand gestures, or just speaking slowly and clearly to each other.
Whichever method they chose, the Soldiers got across to one another and seemed to make good impressions.
"We meet kind people, have comfortable rooms and no problems," said Capt. Mohammed Amaar of the Egyptian army.
With their variously colored and patterned uniforms, the Soldiers' differences were obvious to the eye. But on a deeper level, there was much that they had in common, said Col. Christopher Gibson, commander of the 2nd BCT.
"What they have found is that while there are some differences, there are also some fundamental similarities that they share: courage, competence and can-do; and those have always been the hallmarks of successful military organizations," Gibson said.
In mid-October, the multi-national forces will depart Fort Bragg for Egypt. They will rig their parachutes in-flight and jump into the country to begin two-day field training exercise.
While in Egypt, there will also be another friendship jump and weapons training, as well as visits to such historic sites as the pyramids.
The exercise as a whole allows Soldiers from the different militaries to see how their allies operate, to exchange experiences and learn from each other, participants said.
"I will transfer all my experiences that I get here back to my other soldiers in Egypt," said Maj. Mohammed Sayed, the senior officer with the Egyptian airborne troops.
With everything that makes these troopers different from their allies, the pride of being an airborne soldier brings these men together above all else.
"(Paratroopers) are number one," Sayed said. "Airborne. All the way!"