Paratroopers fill the sky as war games start in Germany
By MARTIN EGNASH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 20, 2018
HOHENFELS, Germany – A romantic Bavarian sunset gave way to a frenzy of falling paratroopers as far as the eye could see on Wednesday.
Against a backdrop of orange and pink skies, with a bright moon peeking over the hills, about 1,000 paratroopers from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and allied forces jumped out of U.S. and Italian C-130 aircraft behind a fictitious enemy’s lines.
This year’s edition of the Saber Junction exercise is designed to assess the readiness of the brigade’s “sky soldiers” to conduct large-scale, complex airborne operations.
“We can put a brigade combat team of 3,000-4,000 soldiers in the air, behind enemy lines, in 18 hours,” said Maj. Christopher Giorgi, the lead exercise planner. “That’s a pretty significant capability that not everyone else can do.”
The jump marks the first day of the war games portion of the exercise, which includes more than 5,500 soldiers from 20 nations fighting a simulated invading army. They will continue the ground fight until the exercise ends at the end of the month.
“It’s going to be tough,” Giorgi said before the jump. “Right away, they are going to be jumping into the forward elements of the (opposition forces).”
The paratroopers launched a nighttime attack from both sides of the opposing forces after landing Wednesday.
The enemy is played by the resident 1st Battalion of the 4th Infantry Regiment. They are heavily armed, with light armor vehicles and tanks alongside infantry, and will keep getting reinforcements to launch larger and more aggressive counterattacks.
“The (opposition forces) are very good at what they do,” Giorgi said. “They know the terrain, they know how to fight. Their tactics would present a challenge for any unit. They’re trying to win.”
Throughout the war games, the paratroopers will be tested against the rural training area environment and the challenge of working side-by-side with soldiers from other nations.
“Just the terrain alone is a challenge. It’s very hilly and forested,” Giorgi said. “They will have challenges just talking to each other. Then you have challenges with interoperability, talking to allies with different radio sets. It’s not going to be easy.”
Despite everything the Army is throwing at them — or maybe because of it — the paratroopers were excited to start the fight as soon as they hit the ground.
“The jump was outstanding,” said Warrant Officer Cole Brown, with the 173rd. “It’s always a great day when we get out and jump. I’m glad to be a part of it.”