Utah Guard Soldiers Jump into History with Cambodians during Angkor Sentinel 2010

 

By CPT Choli Ence

128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

Published August 10, 2010

 

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Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Soldiers watch U.S. and Cambodian airborne troops during the friendship jump at Angkor Sentinel 2010.

Photo by CPT Choli Ence

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Soldiers watch U.S. and Cambodian airborne troops during the friendship jump at Angkor Sentinel 2010.

KAMPONG SPEU, Cambodia — For airborne Soldiers, getting the chance to jump with airborne forces from other countries is a highly coveted and sought-after event. Such was the case for 49 Utah Army National Guard Soldiers of the 197th Special Troops Company (Airborne), 97th Troop Command, and 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group.

These Soldiers participated in a friendship jump with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces during Angkor Sentinel 2010, the Global Peace Operation Initiative capstone event, held here at the newly built Training School for Multinational Peacekeeping Forces, July 12-30.

The Global Peace Operation Initiative is a State Department-led initiative to address gaps in international peacekeeping operations and normally doesn’t include a friendship jump. According to Sgt. Maj. Gary Barnes, operations noncommissioned officer for Headquarters, 97th Troop Command, the idea to include a friendship jump in the exercise was first conceptualized during the initial planning conference in October 2009. However, obtaining actual approval to include the friendship jump in the exercise proved more difficult.

In fact, Barnes said the approval for the jump came only after COL Edward Gunderson, co-exercise support group director for Angkor Sentinel and commander of the 97th, met with defense and Army attaché, COL Mark Gillette, during the exercise

Staff Sergeant Gregory Haskell, 197th Special Troops Company, right, gets some help from a parachute rigger prior to the friendship jump.

Photo by CPT Choli Ence

Staff Sergeant Gregory Haskell, 197th Special Troops Company, right,

gets some help from a parachute rigger prior to the friendship jump.

rehearsal. Once approval for the friendship jump was granted by the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, U.S. Pacific Command, and U.S. Army Pacific, the task of coordinating for the necessary equipment and support personnel began.

The KC-130J aircraft used during the friendship jump was supplied by the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing out of Okinawa, Japan, and the jumpmaster, safeties, parachute riggers and parachutes were all supplied by U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group, also based in Okinawa. Prior to this jump, according to Barnes, the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces, had never worked together.

Despite these challenges, the friendship jump was deemed a success as 66 U.S. and 30 Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Soldiers carried out a perfectly executed jump.

This friendship jump was only the second time that the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces had ever jumped with U.S. Servicemembers.

"It makes me feel very proud and lucky to be here," said SPC Daniel Griffin, 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces, upon learning about the significance of this jump.

At the conclusion of this exercise, all U.S. Soldiers who participated in the friendship jump were awarded Cambodian jump wings. Unlike the U.S., the Cambodian jump wings are individually serial numbered and assigned to each Soldier.