News: Paratroopers spot starless African sky during Shared Accord 13 exercise
Story by Spc. Taryn Hagerman
BULEMO, South Africa - Paratroopers from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, N.C., joined with the South African 1st Parachute Battalion, 44th Parachute Regiment to perform a night parachute drop and airfield seizure during an exercise for Shared Accord (SA) 13 at Bulembo Airport, July 27.
Shared Accord is a biennial training exercise involving in-depth joint cohesion between U.S. and South African military forces during multiple training scenarios designed to promote regional relationships, increase capacity and further cross-training and interoperability.
U.S. and South African paratroopers glided across the starless, night sky from the C-130 aircraft before landing with thuds of varying volumes. Once on the ground, soldiers were undetectable to the naked eye.
After the initial drop, soldiers assembled with their units and began seizing the airfield—facing simulated attacks of resistance.
The joint team shared one mission, though each unit had a separate objective: either the north or south portion of the airfield, said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Patrick Doherty, Charlie Company.
“The two forces, as they worked hand in hand, were able to seize the overall company mission,” said Doherty. “Both objectives were neutralized within 25 minutes.”
Charlie Company and the 1st Parachute Bn. began training together July 20, practicing small unit tactics and Airborne operations, said Doherty.
“All the other countries have techniques that we can benefit from,” said U.S. Army Capt. Craig D. Arnold, commander of Charlie Company.
During the time spent training together, U.S. soldiers were able to see firsthand where and how South African soldiers hone their skills.
“Going to the South African airborne school and seeing how they train their soldiers was impressive,” said Doherty. “They have a very impressive facility and a very professional organization.”
Through all the practicing and knowledge exchanges, these units achieved the central goal of SA 13.
“We're both here to learn,” said U.S. Army Maj. Chuck Slagle, executive officer for 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division of Fort Riley, Kan. “The South Africans have a lot of experience and really we’re just sharing. We’re improving each other through this exercise.”
Soldiers from both militaries would agree that SA 13 has thus far been a success.
“It’s interesting to learn their skills and they can learn ours,” said South African Army Pvt. Chad Pullen, 2nd Field Engineering Regiment.
U.S. Army Spc. James S. Blank, rigger with 11th Quartermaster Company of Fort Bragg, N.C., has also enjoyed being a part of SA 13.
“It’s been a good experience being in South Africa,” said Blank. “They’ve been very hospitable.”
A unique aspect to the exercise was that the entire 3rd Platoon from Charlie Company worked jointly with South African Soldiers to seize the airfield.
“In a division,” said Doherty, “it’s very rare for a platoon to jump organically, and this was one of the few times they got to jump every single member in that platoon.”