Geronimo! Paratroopers fall from
Staff Sgt. Lisa M. Simpson
First published in
SFOR Informer#134, March 14, 2002
It was a small step for the Russian and American paratroopers
to jump from the UH-60 Black Hawk but it was a giant leap
towards forging a co-operative bond between the former Cold
War enemies. Members of the theatre's Combined Joint Special
Operations Task Force (CJSOTF) along with members of the Peacekeeping
Russian Separate Airborne Brigade based in Ugljevik, Multi-National
Division North (MND-N), teamed up for a combined airborne
exercise Feb. 26.
Bijeljina - "Glory to paratroopers of all countries,"
exclaimed Col. Vladimer Livenskiy, commander of the Russian
brigade. "It is a real pleasure for me to see Russians
and Americans working together. We became the winners this
Sixty-eight troopers wearing American-made parachutes jumped
from 1,500 feet, more than 450 metres: 17 Russians and 41
Americans. They landed in a slightly muddy, freshly tilled
field - complete with a farmer, a tractor and a horse - in
Bijeljina, northeast of Tuzla.
The combined training culminated with a wing exchange ceremony
where the Americans were awarded the Russian parachutist wings
and the Russians were awarded the American parachutist wings.
Capt. Steven Stowell, team leader of the U.S. Special Forces
Coalition Support Team (CST) based at the Russian camp in
Ugljevik, was the lead planner for this exercise. "This
is the capstone event for us, we have been doing a lot of
training together and we help them (the Russians) with their
mission in MND-N." The CST and the Russian soldiers routinely
conduct sector patrols and inspections of weapons storage
sites together amongst other duties.
"The CST does a lot of cross training with the Russians,
sometimes we teach them things and sometimes they teach us
things. It is all about exchange and communication,"
said Lt. Col. Sean P. Mulholland, commander of CJSOTF. "Capt.
Stowell, Sgt. First Class Byars, Sgt. First Class Johnson,
Staff Sgt. Byrd, Staff Sgt. Tappan and Sgt. First Class Williamson
really understand their mission and have been great partners
with the Russians. The team at Ugljevik has excelled in every
turn in their mission."
All of the Russian soldiers who jumped with the Americans
were airborne qualified in their army but Stowell and his
soldiers gave them training on how to jump from an American
aircraft using American equipment. As an added safety precaution,
the Russian jumpers were interspersed with the Americans.
Each flight carried a maximum of six jumpers and the first
four flights averaged three Russians and three Americans.
With two Black Hawks working simultaneously it took just under
one hour for the planes to each make six rotations over the
landing zone for a total of 12 flights, or "chalks"
as they are called in the airborne community.
Two different ways
"The Russians land differently than we (the Americans)
do. They land with their back to the wind and we land facing
the wind," Stowell said.
"If you land with the wind at your back, the wind will
push your parachute in the direction the wind is blowing,"
explained UH-60 pilot Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jay Anderson.
"If the wind is in front of you, you can almost guide
your chute straight down."
The wind was not strong but there was a breeze and those who
forgot that block of instruction drifted several metres away
from the landing zone and had to walk back to the assembly
area carrying their expended parachutes. Fortunately for them,
many of the local children had gathered to watch the exercise
and were eager to help the soldiers gather their equipment.
Unlike a traditional C-130 combat jump where paratroopers
stand in the doorway and leap from the aircraft wearing a
main parachute, a reserve parachute and a rucksack, to expedite
the exercise, in the UH-60 the paratroopers only wore their
main and reserve chutes.
When jumping from the Black Hawk, the soldiers sat in the
helicopter's open doorways with their legs dangling in the
air and, when given the command from the jump master, they
merely pushed their bodies forward with their arms to fall
to the earth. The jump master is responsible for inspecting
the paratroopers equipment prior to the flight and directs
the soldiers out of the aircraft once over the landing zone.
Also different, the static line, which pulls the parachutes
open, is attached to the floor instead of the ceiling.
MND-N Commander Maj. Gen. H Steven Blum also participated
in the training. At the awards ceremony, he summarised the
day, saying, "Whenever you get American airborne soldiers
and Russian airborne soldiers working together for the good
of the mission, it's a beautiful thing."
Nations of SFOR: Russia,
Training and Exercises