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U.S., Romanian Paratroopers Jump into Combined Exercise

Oct 11, 2007
BY Pfc. Crystal Abbott

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania (Army News Service, Oct. 10, 2007) - U.S. Soldiers and Airmen from the Southern European Task Force conducted combined, joint airborne operations with Romanian Soldiers from the 60th Airborne Battalion this week.

The troops have spent the last few months conducting tactical training on the ground during the Joint Task Force-East exercise, which has brought American forces together in Romania and Bulgaria in an exercise aimed at developing the direction of future operations in the region.

Preparation for the jump started Oct. 4, with a review of the safety procedures required throughout the phases of the airborne operation. The briefing included a review of actions in the aircraft; how to properly exit the aircraft; what to do in case of malfunctions or entanglements, and how to land properly. The briefing was followed by a walk-through exercise during which Soldiers practiced airborne procedures and landings.

Early the next morning, the U.S. and Romanian paratroopers gathered near the flight line. A few words of inspiration were offered by SETAF Chief of Staff Col. Gordon Davis. Then the 23 U.S. and 34 Romanian jumpers boarded two C-130 airplanes.

"We are looking forward to jumping with you today," said Col. Davis to the Romanian Soldiers. "Have a great jump."

After a short flight to Romania's Babadag Training Area, the doors were opened and both Romanian and U.S. Soldiers became airborne. The jump was a special occasion for many paratroopers, not only because it was the first time SETAF Soldiers have jumped with Romanian soldiers, but also for many personal reasons.

"It is one of the most exciting exchanges I have done," said Sgt. Edwin Laboy, an operations executive assistant at SETAF. "I have never done an exchange at a national level like this. It will foster better relations when we go forward together in combat."

Air Force 1st Lt. Chandra LeCompte, SETAF staff weather officer, said the jump was her first with SETAF since her graduation from airborne school.

"A lot of people will go their whole careers and never earn their foreign exchange wings, and I will get them on my first unit jump," said 1st Lt. LeCompte.

The U.S. and Romanian paratroopers all earned their foreign jump wings, but many also said they developed a mutual understanding and respect for each others' abilities.

"This exercise has been a great chance for us to meet our NATO partners," said Capt. Michael Stewart, an exercise planner for JTF-E. "It builds up partnerships between allied militaries so somewhere down the road, if we have to work together, we will understand each other."

"It is good to learn things from the American Army," said Romanian platoon commander 1st Lt. Silviu Neacsa. "It is our mission here to learn from each other and learn how to work together."

(Pfc. Crystal Abbott writes for the Southern European Task Force Public Affairs Office and this article was submitted by the U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs Office.)

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