'Sky Soldiers' take on air assault training with Italian special ops unit

March 19, 2013

By Sgt. Joel Vazquez, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr. (second from right) is greeted by U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern education officer Ramona Kausch during a visit to the garrison, March 8. Joined by garrison commander Lt. Col. Lars Zetterstrom (right), Campbell toured several Army installations in the Kaiserslautern community that support USAREUR and took part in a ribbon cutting for a new Soldiers' transition center at Kleber Kaserne. (Photo by Rick Scavetta)

'Sky Soldiers' of U.S. Army Europe's 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and their 1st Tuscania Special Operations Regiment partners pose for a photo following an Italian air assualt training in Livorno, Italy. (Photo by Sgt. Joel Vazquez)

- 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team

LIVORNO, Italy -- A team of 'Sky Soldiers' from U.S. Army Europe's 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team came here recently to join with Italian members of the 1st Tuscania Special Operations Regiment for air assault training.

The training the Americans encountered was not entirely what they were used to. The typical American air assault course comprises 10 days of training, while the Italian parachutists conducted a course that was just as tough, but in half the time.

The Soldiers started out on training towers, where they practiced basic rappelling techniques, but quickly switched over to live scenarios, with each "Sky Soldier" taking a turn rappelling from the doors of a carabinieri helicopter.

The course moves at a rapid pace, and the 1st Tuscania Special Operations Regiment trainers expect their students to adapt to its increasing intensity. The 173rd Soldiers were no exception.

The 1st Tuscania Special Operations Regiment is one of many partner units to the 173rd. It's an elite group composed of some of the Italian carabinieri's best and brightest. Becoming one of these select few is a long and arduous road, and some who apply never make it far enough to see everything the school has to offer.

That elite spirit and rigorous challenge gave the opportunity to take the course extra meaning, said Sgt. Kevin Welsh of the 173rd's Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

"We received training that only a select few get to participate in, and I can see why," he said. "This training was incredible. I wish it was longer."

"It was an absolutely amazing time training with the carabinieri," Welsh said. "I know there are more phases to this training, and if given the opportunity I would love to continue training with them. It was that much fun."

Though hectic and difficult, all the 173rd paratroopers graduated the five-day course.

Thanks to the success of the course and other training events, the 173rd and their Italian partners are planning more combined training in the months to come.

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