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    Seizing opportunities for partnership: US paratroopers train in Poland

    Lithuanian Army Infantry ‘Griffin’ Brigade controls the fight at Allied Spirit VII

    Photo By Staff Sgt. David Overson | Lithuanian Army Lt. Col. Viktoras Bagdonas, chief of staff for the Lithuanian Army...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Marcus Floyd 

    7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    SWIDWIN AIR BASE, Poland — Cascading to the ground, a company of airborne Soldiers prepared to assault and seize an airbase after jumping out of an Air Force C-130 aircraft. Upon reaching the ground, the paratroopers cleared the runway for a C-17 carrying three M1126 Stryker Combat Vehicles to land approximately 45 minutes after the first paratrooper exited the door.

    As part of Exercise Saber Strike 15, paratroopers with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, seized an airfield during a joint forcible entry exercise June 16, 2015 at Swidwin Air Base in Poland.

    “A company of paratroopers may not sound like a lot, but to our allies, giving a company of paratroopers over, and being there, is support enough, because they know we stand with them,” said Pfc. Steven Villafranca, combat medic with the 1st Bn., 503rd Inf. Reg., 173rd Airborne Brigade.

    The U.S. Army wasn't the only military learning from the airfield seizure.

    Built on the basis of partnership, Saber Strike creates an environment for soldiers from different nations to learn from one another. Although the exercise helped train U.S. Soldiers, the airfield seizure served as an educational experience for Polish Army leaders as well.

    “We invited our airborne partners, the 6th Airborne Polish Brigade, to come watch us seize this airfield as an opportunity to show them how we do things,” said 1st Lt. Graham Prosch, the logistics officer for 1st Bn., 503rd Inf. Reg. 173rd Airborne Brigade. “They were able to see a successful airfield seizure out here on Swidwin Air Base.”

    By inviting the Polish to observe the exercise, the unit was able to show how they would operate in a real-world situation should the need arise.

    “It showcases a capability to NATO and the world that there is a contingency response force here in Europe that is capable of seizing airfields to assist in a larger operation, and I think, us being the only airborne unit stationed in Europe, it gives us an incredible opportunity to practice those skills with every single airborne unit in our partners' nations.” said Prosch.

    Although their role in Saber Strike is just one part of the larger exercise, their mission demonstrates how quickly the unit can arrive to a combat zone then establish and maintain a foothold for follow-on forces.

    Encompassing more than 6,000 participants from 13 different nations, Saber Strike is a long-standing U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise. Designed to improve joint operational capability in a range of missions as well as preparing the participating nations and units to support multinational contingency operations, this year's exercise takes place across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

    “It's been an incredible experience working with all the different countries,” said Prosch. “We've gotten to work with the Polish for this particular one, the Lithuanians at our last joint-force exercise, and both these countries have been accommodating for us here on the ground providing background support as well as training.”

    Working with multinational partners comes easily to the 503rd Infantry Regiment. Operating as the only U.S. airborne unit in Europe, the Soldiers experience a unique opportunity.

    “I think it provides a great opportunity and a broadening of experience for the Soldiers to train with other partnered countries, particularly our units that are based here in Europe get this opportunity more than our fellow Soldiers back in the states,” said Prosch. “So being stationed here in Europe provides us that unique experience.”



    Date Taken: 06.17.2015
    Date Posted: 06.17.2015 14:52
    Story ID: 166998
    Location: SWIDWIN, PL 

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