The Army is fully invested, but some say the tactic is impractical, costly and disconnected from modern war.
By Kyle Jahner, Army Times
ZARAGOZA, Spain — About 1,200 soldiers from 13 countries looked up toward the thin white clouds stretching across the sky. Having just participated in a brief NATO battle demo, they awaited the November event’s finale.
First Lt. Tim Pena would later say it was “a beautiful day to jump.” But he hadn’t quite arrived just yet.
Right on time, three C-17s cleared the hills to the north, about 1,000 feet above the ground. They flew over the fictional village of “Casas Altas” — an assembly of concrete buildings where the brief staged battle had occurred. A few seconds later, soldiers who nine hours earlier had taken off from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, began to pour from each of the two rearward doors, in standard one-second intervals. Over 500 U.S. paratroopers from 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division floated to the rocky ground below — it was a beautiful sight.
The jump capped an event, designed largely for the international press, to wrap up NATO’s broader, 36,000-troop, 30-plus-country exercise known as Trident Juncture. NATO described the demonstration as a message to Russia, though Russia declined an invite.
Paratroopers took part in NATO's Trident Juncture in November. Daniel Woolfolk/Staff
Nevertheless, NATO and U.S. leaders were pleased. The airborne jump may have been the most visually stunning and logistically impressive element of Trident Juncture: hundreds of soldiers in the U.S. travel across the ocean and reach foreign land — on time, without an airstrip, and armed with M4s.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to show what we can do on the Global Response Force,” said Col. Joseph Ryan, the 2nd Brigade commander who jumped along with his soldiers.
The GRF, generally a rotating brigade in the 82nd Airborne Division, is the nation’s quick reaction force designed to rapidly deploy in an emergency. As the Spain exercise demonstrated, Army regards large-scale combat jumps as a crucial capability of the GRF.