SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
Nearly 200 U.S. Army and Honduran jumpers and 10 U.S. Air Force aircrew members teamed up to complete combined jump training over the drop zone here May 16.
For the U.S. Soldiers and Airmen, it was an opportunity to train side-by-side with a partner nation and learn about their methods and procedures. For the majority of the Honduran "paracaidistas" -- or paratroopers -- the effort marked their first jump and the completion of a final prerequisite before they graduate from jump school.
The jump was the first one for the Hondurans since January, 2008, said Lt. Col. Gustavo A. Paz Escalante, commander of the Honduran 2nd Battalion Airborne in charge of training paracaidistas. "We conduct our own training, but count on the U.S. for logistical support like planes and fuel," Colonel Paz said. "The airborne operations we are training for are not just military, but also for supporting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations."
The action began May 15, when the U.S. Army Special Forces Jumpmasters traveled to the Honduran jump school to go over commands and actions that would be used in flight the next day and make final logistical arrangements with the command staff and cadre of the school.
The next morning, a HC-130 aircraft took off carrying jumpers from both nations. A total of nine takeoffs and landings was necessary to accommodate the large number of jumpers.
"This airborne operation reminds me of why I love being an airborne soldier," said U.S. Army Special Forces Sgt. Maj. Gary. (Full name withheld) "The jumpers performed their duty with bravery and skill. The success of the jump today is a tribute to the tough training they (Hondurans) have committed themselves to and to the high standards of their leaders and soldiers. Their jumpmasters and parachute school cadre performed their duties perfectly.
"The Honduran people should be very proud of the achievements of these parachutists from both the Airborne School and the 1st Special Forces Battalion," Sergeant Major Gary said. "These soldiers have all volunteered to parachute from any plane in flight, knowing well the hazards of their choice. We are very proud to be here training with them, and think of them as our airborne brothers. It was an honor to exchange jump wings with them. They certainly earned them!"
For Colonel Paz, the impact of this training is indicative of success in the big picture in the two nations' partnership.
"This airborne community is bringing together two countries with a good relationship to combine military operations to train both our forces," the colonel said. "All these combined operations -- airborne, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief -- are good efforts. They fortify our relationship and help sustain the Honduran democracy."