5th QM Co. riggers jump with French airborne

Story and photo by Sgt. Frank Sanchez III
21st TSC Public Affairs

PAU, France — Building relationships and strong ties with foreign servicemembers and armies across Europe is always vital to the Army’s mission in Europe.

A group of paratroopers from the 5th Quartermaster Company cross-trained and conducted combined airborne training operations with French paratroopers Feb. 1 to 4 in Pau, France, in order to strengthen ties and relationships with the French airborne forces.

The exercise took place at the French Parachute School, which is located in southwestern France. Airborne units from various nations around the world have trained there, and the training is considered some of the most detailed and challenging in the world.

“The school was very accommodating. Their (noncommissioned officers) and officers were very professional, and all in all it was very informative,” said Chief Warrant Officer David Fabunan, the officer in charge of the combined operation.
Officer Fabunan said that it took more than three months of planning in order to coordinate the event.

“Our Soldiers got a lot out of this. Most of our Soldiers are parachute riggers, and it gave them a better opportunity to see another country’s equipment,” Officer Fabunan said.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to jump with our foreign allies and see their equipment versus the U.S. equipment,” said Spc. Irene Lenge, a parachute rigger with the 5th QM.

During the combined airborne operations, U.S. jumpmasters from the 5th QM trained 40 French paratroopers utilizing U.S. parachute equipment. The joint training culminated with a jump from the rear tailgate of an Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo plane.

The U.S. paratroopers from the 5th QM were also trained by French jumpmasters using French parachute equipment. The 5th QM Soldiers conducted two successful jumps from a French Air Force C-160 cargo plane using the plane’s rear exit doors.  
A joint ceremony was held on the last day when 10 U.S. paratroopers were awarded French jump wings and 40 French paratroopers were awarded the U.S. airborne wings. The paratroopers from the 5th QM were then given a guided tour of a French paratrooper museum where they were further exposed to the history of the French airborne forces. 

The Soldiers from the 5th QM who attended the trip to Pau, France, agreed that the experience left a positive, lasting impression, and Soldiers from both countries said they hope there will opportunities for more combined airborne training operations between American and French airborne forces in the future.