VICENZA, Italy – On February 24, 2022, the first day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the 173rd Airborne Brigade deployed a contingent of paratroopers or “sky soldiers” to Camp Adazi in Latvia. Exactly three months later, their reassurance mission was complete and they returned to the 173rd in Vicenza, Italy.
The paratroopers called up were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as “The Rock”. 330 of them deployed within 17 hours of notification, finally putting all of their readiness and rapid deployment training to the test. They reported to work on February 23 as if it were any other day and ended up being called up to join other NATO forces in Latvia.
Their deployment was not a standard set of missions. Latvia is a member of NATO and not a combat zone. The Sky Soldiers soon arrived at Camp Adazi to find many other NATO soldiers from across the continent, including Italy, Canada, Spain, and recently Denmark. As their movement split the battalion in half, the members of the Rock had quickly developed strong relationships with the other NATO members in their new neighborhood.
The Sky Soldiers were deployed there to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to our NATO allies and to enhance defensive capabilities. While in Latvia, the deployed battalion conducted numerous tactical exercises to increase interoperability and readiness, including exercise Saber Strike 22 and allied airborne operations with paratroopers from other nations, which earned the Canadians jump wings for much of their deployed formation.
From weapons familiarization to physical training competitions, members of the Rock integrate seamlessly with other alliance members, demonstrating the interoperability the 173rd continually strives for. Being in Latvia didn’t stop them from completing the annual Darby 40 Mile Ranger Challenge, which is normally held at Lake Garda, Italy.
According to 2-503 Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Kevin Ward, it was the spirit and constant drive of each Sky Soldier that kept the unit successful through three months of uncertainty.
“The philosophy ingrained in the nerves of Rock Paratroopers keeps them eager and ready to answer the call of duty, whether it’s jumping behind enemy lines or deterring aggression on the northeast front of the NATO. This same spirit drove the paratroopers of 2-503 to perform intense and relentless training during their deployment to Latvia, which was particularly focused on what they would need to execute in its defense.
“Through individual, small unit, collective, and multinational training, the Rock has honed its lethality and capabilities and dramatically increased its capability. I am immensely proud of how each individual skydiver has shown drive and initiative to improve themselves and their team every day, ensuring that we are collectively ready to face any opposition.
The last returning Sky Soldier aircraft arrived at Aviano Air Base on May 25, greeted by friends, family and the warm Italian weather.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army’s contingency response force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to U.S. areas of responsibility in Europe, Africa, and Central Command. Deployed forward across Italy and Germany, the brigade trains regularly alongside NATO allies and partners to build partnerships and strengthen the alliance.
|Date posted:||25.05.2022 15:14|
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