For the first time in a decade, paratroopers were seen in the skies over Kosovo.
Soldiers from Fort Hood’s only airborne unit, Charlie Company, 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, conducted the jump on April 15.
Utilizing a National Guard aviation unit deployed with the brigade, troopers conducted a static line jump from Black Hawk helicopters over Camp Bondsteel.
It was the first time a Kosovo Force unit conducted parachute operations in more than 10 years, said squadron commander Lt. Col. John Cogbill during a phone interview with Herald on Thursday. The last unit to do so was a French unit and the last time Americans conducted airborne operations in the formerly war-torn country was 2002.
The “Phantom Recon” Squadron deployed to Kosovo in January for a nine-month mission with Multinational Battle Group East, along with its brigade’s headquarters.
The unit conducted the operation to ensure its jumpers and jump masters remain proficient. The Army requires paratroopers to train on these skills every three months.
“It’s really about mitigating risk,” Cogbill said. “Jumping is inherently high risk. Just like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it.”
Jumping into unknown territory was also beneficial, said Capt. Daniel Stephens, company commander.
“We want to make sure we don’t get complacent,” he said. The drop zone used for the event was the smallest allowed. The unit’s MC-6 steerable parachutes made it easier, Stephens said.
“To get the opportunity to jump that parachute in an unfamiliar place made it a very rewarding training event,” he said.
Airborne training also ensures once the soldiers return home later this year, they will be more able to pick up their reconnaissance mission for III Corps.
“It’s important to do it that way so when we get back we don’t have that gap,” Cogbill said.
The troopers involved agreed it felt good to make history.
“It was pretty exciting actually,” said Warrant Officer Brandon Barger, the squadron’s senior rigger and jump master. “It’s not every day you go to a foreign country and jump out of a helicopter. The fact that it’s unfamiliar and it’s different is a little nerve-wracking. Everything went well and everybody did a good job.”
Just before deployment, the squadron acquired its own eight-man rigger team, lead by Barger, to support them with parachute packing and maintenance.
“It’s definitely exciting,” said Staff Sgt. David Germick, a team leader with the airborne company. “It goes back to why we are doing what we are doing and that’s to maintain proficiency. It doesn’t matter where the drop zone is or if you’ve done it before — it’s about safety.”