News: Sky soldiers jump into Holland for 68th anniversary of Operation Market Garden
By Staff Sgt. Bruce Cobbeldick
173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs
VICENZA, Italy -- Soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team traveled from Vicenza, Italy, to Arnhem, the Netherlands from Sept. 20 to Sept. 23, to participate in events celebrating the 68th anniversary of Operation Market Garden, a massive Allied airborne offensive in World War II.
A contingent of 21 soldiers from the brigade jumped into Arnhem's landing zone alongside paratroopers from Germany, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Canada, Poland and Belgium. The majority of the brigade is currently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
At the time, Operation Market Garden was the largest airborne operation in history, a combined effort by U.S. and British paratroopers to secure bridgeheads over the Rhine and Meuse Rivers in Holland. Logistical failures and fierce German resistance forced the Allies to abandon their gains, but in recent years the anniversary has become an opportunity for paratroopers from all over Europe to train together and commemorate shared history.
“It is a fantastic chance to establish rapport with our partnered units. This was a very rewarding experience jumping with our fellow paratroopers from these countries,” said Master Sgt. Melvyn Lopez of Caguas, Puerto Rico. “Airborne soldiers share a more intense bond, since they can appreciate and relate to what it takes to conduct these kinds of operations."
For the anniversary jump, the American paratroopers did not use their own aircraft, parachutes or jumpmasters. Instead, they used gear provided by their British and Belgian counterparts.
“It was a great opportunity to exchange best practices, make new friends, speak a little Polish with my airborne brothers from Poland and earn foreign jump wings,” said Spc. Pawel Szczegot of Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, a native of Westwood, N.J.
“It was definitely an interesting experience,” said Szczegot. “[The British] chutes opened very smoothly. The way we came down was no problem. In fact, all the way around, their aircraft, jumpmasters and parachutes were all a positive experience for us.”
Soldiers got a lot more out of the experience than a new set of foreign jump wings, as they were able to train with their NATO allies on an airborne operation, share cultures and gain a firsthand appreciation of what World War II paratroopers accomplished nearly 70 years ago.
Lopez said events like the Operation Market Garden anniversary jump provide a forum for allied nations to assemble and conduct training together.
“Coming together and learning about history lets the paratroopers share in an experience that will be remembered for a long time to come," he said.