US Army 173rd Airborne Brigade Team Up with German Paratroopers for Wet Silk Training
US Army 173rd Airborne Brigade Team Up with German Paratroopers for Wet Silk Training

US Army 173rd Airborne Brigade Team Up with German Paratroopers for Wet Silk Training

U.S. paratroopers or “Sky Soldiers” with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and German paratroopers with the 26th Airborne Brigade ‘Saarland’ conducted an allied airborne operation into Lake Constance, Germany on July 29, 2022. A total of 68 “Sky Soldiers” were able to exit the aircraft and land in the lake. Water jumps are exceptionally rare in the airborne community, particularly with fixed-wing aircraft. This unique opportunity has not been available to the 173rd Airborne Brigade since 2017. Lake Constance sits on the borders of Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Approximately 500 people came to view the paratroopers doing what they do best. Two C-130Js and an A-400M were used to drop the paratroopers into the glacial-blue waters of the lake.

A U.S. C-130J and a German A-400M drop paratroopers from 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Germany’s 26th Airborne Brigade ‘Saarland’ during an airborne operation at Lake Constance, Germany, July 29, 2022. 75 paratroopers from each country participated in the operation.
A U.S. C-130J and a German A-400M drop paratroopers from 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Germany’s 26th Airborne Brigade ‘Saarland’ during an airborne operation at Lake Constance, Germany, July 29, 2022. 75 paratroopers from each country participated in the operation. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk/173rd Airborne Brigade)

“Our paratroopers have been jumping for several days now and since American soldiers came for only one day, we thought it would be best to provide the opportunity,” said Sgt. Maj. Kai Becker with the German 26th Airborne Brigade ‘Saarland’. “They came to learn and receive our [German] wings and my Soldiers were more than happy to help.”

“This was a once in a lifetime experience for many paratroopers,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Newman, commander of the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion. “Interaction with the German paratroopers was very pleasant. They were very helpful in teaching us their methods of airborne operations.”

A U.S. Army paratrooper with the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, impacts the water during an airborne operation at Lake Constance, Germany, July 29, 2022. 75 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and 75 German paratroopers from the 26th Airborne Brigade ‘Saarland’ participated in the operation. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk/173rd Airborne Brigade)

The plan for the airborne operation was to exit 75 German and 75 U.S. paratroopers. Due to inclement weather approaching, the German paratroopers chose to let the Sky Soldiers have the priority to exit first so they could experience the unique tasks involved when landing in water. In the end, 68 Sky Soldiers and 10 German paratroopers successfully exited the aircrafts and were all safely recovered from the lake. The airborne operation involved German jumpmasters giving jump commands to the Sky Soldiers while in the aircraft, which resulted in earning their German Parachutists Badge, a highly sought-after set of wings in the airborne community. A ceremony was held after the jump where German jumpmasters pinned their country’s wings onto the 68 Sky Soldiers. For many of them, this was their first set of foreign wings.

A U.S. Army paratrooper with with the 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, receives the German Parachutist Badge after an airborne operation at Lake Constance, Germany, July 29, 2022. 75 paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade and 75 German paratroopers from the 26th Airborne Brigade ‘Saarland’ participated in the operation. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk/173rd Airborne Brigade)

This unique airborne operation required additional training to prepare to land in water, known as “wet silk training,” comprised of three events. To pass the training, the paratroopers must swim 25 meters, 10 underwater, followed by a 10-minute tread. The training also included swimming underneath a parachute in a pool. This training is not administered in airborne school, but it is required for the paratroopers before they jump in water. The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the U.S. Army’s Contingency Response Force in Europe, providing rapidly deployable forces to the United States European, African, and Central Command areas of responsibility. Forward deployed across Italy and Germany, the brigade routinely trains alongside NATO allies and partners to build partnerships and strengthen the alliance.

Paratroopers with the U.S. Army’s 173rd Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and Germany’s 26th Airborne Brigade ‘Saarland’ pose for a group photo after an airborne-operation at Lake Constance, Germany, July 29, 2022. Approximately 75 paratroopers from each country participated in the operation. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk/173rd Airborne Brigade)