LEÒN AIR BASE, Spain -- There’s a sharp, exhilarating blast of air that streams past the back of an aircraft at 22,000 feet. Even the warmth of mid spring is lost in the oxygen-starved atmosphere, where adrenaline and faith in the man behind compels them to obey the command, “Jump.”
“As soon as you get out of the ramp, you feel that pressure,” said Spanish Army Master Sgt. Sergio Martinez, a jump master with Brigada de Infantería Ligera Paracaidista, who took part in Exercise Lone Paratrooper over León Air Base, Spain, May 18-29.
One of the largest parachute infiltration exercises in Europe, Exercise Lone Paratrooper drew together service members from Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Italy, France, Poland, the Netherlands and the United States. Hundreds of the paratroopers and accompanying aircraft took part in the operation.
“It was a beautiful experience, as always,” reflected Martinez after one of his jumps. “We are trying to [intertwine] our skills, tactics, techniques and procedures, and bind everyone.”
A U.S. Marine KC-130J Hercules with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa joined its partner nations and delivered more than 280 paratroopers in a series of high-altitude jumps ranging from 12,000 to 22,000 feet.
"Multinational training of this nature is fundamental toward ensuring NATO and our other allies are familiar with each other's procedures and tactics,” said Maj. Ben Grant, the officer in charge for participating SPMAGTF-CR-AF Marines. “It reinforces our collective sense of trust, confidence and camaraderie. While air delivery of personnel is one of many routine KC-130J mission sets we conduct in support of SPMAGTF-CR-AF and Marine Forces Europe and Africa, the chance to work with the professionals from all of these nations at once was a rare opportunity and very rewarding.”
The KC-130J completed nine flights, each with multiple passes over the landing area.
The crews and paratroopers pre-breathed 100-percent oxygen to purge potentially dangerous nitrogen from their bloodstreams as they pushed to more than 20,000 feet to support High Altitude Low Opening and High Altitude High Opening jumps. At that altitude, the multinational jumpers even carried supplemental oxygen tanks to breathe as they fell thousands of feet before opening their chutes.
In order to maximize the training, paratroopers from multiple nations shared the same aircraft, allowing them to work firsthand with their peers.
“We are paratroopers,” said Martinez. “It doesn’t matter the systems you have. Our tactics, techniques and procedures, if not the same, are very similar. The language is not a barrier ... In the end, we have a set of similar methods for working.”
The exercise offered similar benefits for the crew of the U.S. Marine Hercules, who capitalized on the rare opportunity to conduct jump operations with so many partner nations.
“They’ve all been nothing but outstanding in their support,” said Gunnery Sgt. John Marsh, a load master with SPMAGTF-CR-AF. “It’s always great to work with people from other countries, go to new locations, and meet people from different cultures and just learn as much as you can.”