Paratroopers jump down to Germany for Swift Response exercise
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 10, 2017
HOHENFELS, Germany — U.S. soldiers and their allies jumped out of airplanes and captured an enemy airfield Monday during the first major event of an 18-day multinational war game.
French Foreign Legionnaires and British paratroopers joined with U.S. Army Europe soldiers to take the objective as part of the crisis response exercise Swift Response, which began Oct. 2 and includes more than 6,000 soldiers from 10 NATO allies and partner nations.
The exercise will feature several more air assaults, Army officials said.
“Complex exercises like Swift Response demonstrate that the U.S. and its allies and partners can quickly deploy and amass at times and locations of their choosing in order to deter and defend against aggression,” U.S. Army Europe spokesman Craig Childs said.
The thousands of troops training at Hohenfels faced a mock enemy Monday, played primarily by U.S. soldiers, who simulated an opposing alliance with military capabilities like their own. The training is far different from the insurgent-based tactics practiced for wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
The change reflects greater emphasis on European security in the wake of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine and Moscow’s support of pro-Russian fighters there.
French Foreign Legion representatives at the exercise said they were “fighting different faces of the enemy all at once,” using both conventional and unconventional techniques to create a tougher fight for the paratroopers.
The size of Swift Response and vast number of airborne maneuvers sometimes required soldiers to operate off post in the German countryside.
“The German Ministry of Defense has set aside land for us to use for when (exercises) are so large that it can’t all be done on base,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Burrow, of Joint Multinational Readiness Center Hohenfels.
Operating off post has created some traffic jams outside Hohenfels, but the crowds of Germans gathered around drop zones suggest that most locals are more interested than upset.
“We realize that this causes some inconveniences, but we have American soldiers and families that live in the area, too, and we are going through the same issues,” Burrow said. “So far, the German populace has been very understanding and a pleasure to work with.”
Another focus of the exercise is to develop leaders in the NATO alliance who can work effectively with several militaries.
British army Capt. Christopher Wade said his country couldn’t fight a war on its own.
“We don’t know where we are going to have to fight, but wherever it is, we know we’re going to be alongside the U.S. and NATO,” he said.