BIZERTE, Tunisia – “Six minutes!” The C-130J Super Hercules’ walls echo the roar from the Tunisian Jumpmasters.
“Get ready!” The paratroopers all direct their attention to the American Jumpmasters to the rear. “First pass personnel stand up!” The multinational Soldiers raise from the benches with mixed feelings of alarm, enthusiasm and perseverance. “Hook up!” The click of the universal static line snap hook raises the adrenaline in each paratrooper.
Airborne is the everyday lifestyle for Soldiers of the 5th Quartermaster Theater Aerial Delivery Company. Twelve confident 16th Special Troops Battalion paratroopers demonstrated the Army’s commitment to Europe and Africa -- in Romania and Tunisia -- with unmatched precision while supporting airborne operations.
Building trust between multinational paratroopers is just one of the many ways the 16th STB enables the alliance and strengthens partnerships. 1st Sgt. Robert Nicholson of 5th QM TADC led a small rigger team in Bizerte, Tunisia to support “African Lion,” a joint airborne operation, Aug. 25, 2017.
Building joint and multinational airborne readiness through training is vital for successfully and safely completing real world missions that no nation can complete alone.
“This was my first time conducting safety duties since Jumpmaster School,” said Sgt. Joshua Zalsman, a recent graduate from Jumpmaster School and one of the jumpmasters for the “African Lion” operation. “The Tunisians and the U.S. embassy were really helpful with the airborne operation.”
Zalsman and Staff Sgt. Basilio Lashley, 5th QM TADC Air Operations Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, conducted jumpmaster responsibilities for 37 Tunisian and 16 American paratroopers.
“The collaboration between the two armies was outstanding in the aircraft, on the drop zone, and in the hanger,” said Lashley.
The Tunisian mission, “African Lion,” enabled 5th QM TADC an opportunity to train junior leaders and maintain airborne proficiency within the company.
Spc. Jeran Ferguson, a 5th QM TADC Personnel Parachute Rigger, performed rigger checks and safekeeping for the parachutes.
“Everything ran smoothly and the equipment was properly packed,” Ferguson said. “I’m humbled to be a part of a mission so big.”
“African Lion” exhibited the ability of the 16th STB to expeditiously support airborne operations in conjunction with the U.S. State Department, allies, partners, and other service branches.
Supporting a Mediterranean partner displays the operational and sustainment reach of U.S. Army Europe, which even extends into northern Africa.
Nearly 2,200 miles away, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Tony Owens, 5th QM TADC Air Drop Systems Technician, led five riggers in Bucharest, Romania providing drop zone safety and jumpmaster support until Sept. 7, 2017.
In Romania, Owens managed jumpmaster responsibilities and synchronization with the 37th Air Wing to perform several airborne operations in Atlantic Resolve-South (AR-South). Staff Sgt. Dustin Colwell, Personnel Parachute Shop Foreman, was the highest ranking leader in the aircraft, guaranteeing safety and proper procedures were followed.
“The mission provided a unique opportunity for U.S. military personnel to interact and train with our NATO counterparts,” Colwell said.
Owens’ team successfully supported over 220 Romanian paratroopers. The mission also provided an opportunity to train 5th QM TADCs jumpmasters in multifaceted circumstances. The team transitioned to night mass tactical airborne operations with the Romanian paratroopers.
Members of the 5th QM TADC believe performing jumpmaster duties in AR-South demonstrates to both the allies and partners that 16th STB can and will support comprehensive sustainment operations across thousands of miles by means of aerial delivery.