US paratroopers currently training in Estonia and members of the Estonian Defense League will conduct a parachute jump exercise from Black Hawk UH60 helicopters on July 22 at Nurmsi Airfield. Approximately 80 soldiers from Destined Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade and 30 Kaitseliit members will take part in the jumps.
"The 173rd Airborne is here to train and conduct airborne operations with the Estonian Defense Forces, and we look forward to expand our cooperation with Estonia's military through this opportunity to jump with members of the Estonian Defense League — showing the world that the US and Estonia stand together. Our ability to integrate into one force during airborne operations enhances our interoperability and strengthens Europe, overall," said Captain Matthew M. McCarthy, Destined Company Commander.
“Cooperation with allies is important to the Defense League. It helps us to get to know each other’s procedures and equipment,” said Estonian Defense League’s Lieutenant Mihkel Haug, who is coordinating the jump. “This is only one part of the exercise. We will also strengthen our cooperation; we will get to know each other’s techniques and methods, and we will synchronize our procedures about jumping and aerial activity.”
After the jumps are completed, those who participated will be presented with Foreign Jump Wings, respective to Estonia and the US in a short wing exchange ceremony. This is a time honored military tradition that helps to build the bonds of friendship. Estonian Defense League members who jumped will receive US jump wings, while 173rd’s Sky Soldiers will receive Estonian jump wings. Jump wings are a military badge awarded to members.
Members of the public are welcome to come and watch. If the exercise, scheduled from 11:00-14:00 is canceled due to weather, the backup date is July 23.
While paratroopers for the Defense League have been developing their skills in various parachuting clubs for decades, cooperation with Allies started the late 1990s, when members of the Defense League parachuted from C-130 Hercules during the Baltic Challenge exercise. Now, Haug notes, we have strong cooperation and annual joint exercises with allies.
Destined Company will be conducting exercises with Estonian troops and training in Estonia through the summer as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.