News: Operation Federal Eagle unites US, German paratroopers
Story by Staff Sgt. Opal Vaughn
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – U.S. and German armies conducted a joint airborne operation, April 15 through 19, at Fort Bragg.
Operation Federal Eagle is an annual event led by the German army to promote friendship and military partnership, said Lt. Col. Andy Wiechert, German liaison officer with XVIII Airborne Corps.
“On the one hand, Federal Eagle is an exchange of experience,” said Wiechert. “It gives us the chance to train on different systems, airborne operation techniques and to compare notes. On the other hand, Federal Eagle is a clear sign of the partnership we share with our U.S. counterparts.
“It’s always good to not only show that we are allied, but to live it as well.”
The annual exercise began in 1995, said Sgt. Maj. Ronny Hahnlein, German liaison non-commissioned officer with XVIII Abn. Corps. It is one of two regularly planned training events in which German paratroopers train at Fort Bragg. The operation got its name from the German flag that includes a black Bundesadler or “Federal Eagle,” on a yellow shield.
Operation Toy Drop is the other joint venture and is conducted just before Christmas. During the toy drop, paratroopers donate toys to underprivileged children for an opportunity to jump with jumpmasters from around the world and a chance to earn foreign jump wings. Although both are important training opportunities, Federal Eagle is a purely German-led tactical exercise.
“There is a difference between Toy Drop and Federal Eagle,” said Wiechert. “Toy Drop is a U.S. event supported by Germany and various countries. Federal Eagle is a German event supported by the U.S. Army, but our airborne brigades have the same tasks. It gives us the opportunity to see how each other trains and how operations are conducted based on the technical and strategic level, and to see the planning process.
“We shouldn’t forget that a jump is just transport to the battlefield,” Wiechert continued. “The main focus must be on the battle itself. It’s also very important to see and to compare our planning processes on the tactical and strategic level, like we did in an exercise in the Mission Training Center (MTC) here, back in February 2013.”
Under the direction of German jumpmasters, paratroopers will perform a succession of training exercises in order to conduct high altitude-low opening and static-line airborne operations conducted in two parts, said Hahnlein.
“Part one will be the training led by German jumpmasters to familiarize the U.S. jumpmasters with the Transall C-160 aircraft,” said Hahnlein. “Then part two, paratroopers will do the jump.”
Because airborne training is standard in most countries’ militaries, many of the procedures are similar, added Hahnlein.
“If you look around at most of the missions around the world, they are multinational missions,” Hahnlein. “It’s important for everyone to train together, talk to each other and to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“The good thing is that military is nearly similar all over the world. There are standards for everything. If I don’t understand a single word I can still understand the procedure because the hand signals are similar.”
Wiechert agrees, there is no difference jumping in one country over another.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” added Wiechert. “Jumping out of a plane is nearly always the same. Every verbal command given is followed by a visible command. In addition, the U.S. jumpmasters are trained before the jump in our commands so that they can understand.”
Wiechert continued, explaining that training and learning is a benefit of the joint operation.
“The T-11 (parachute) is a great training tool for soldiers,” said Wiechert. “We do not have something comparable in Germany. Americans have strength and flexibility, and are often better equipped.”
Federal Eagle gives German paratroopers a chance to train on equipment that is not available, said Wiechert. The operations allows paratroopers to train on airplanes like the Globemaster C-17, the Chinook, Black Hawk, and more commonly used C-130 Hercules.
“It’s good to be able to train on aircraft like this so we too can be flexible.”
Similar to Toy Drop, Federal Eagle will provide soldiers, both German and U.S., a chance to earn foreign wings, said Wiechert.
“Exchanging wings at the end of this training event is a visible sign of our friendship,” said Wiechert. “If we train together, and we fight together like in Afghanistan, then we can also jump together.”