Rapid Trident 2011: breaking barriers, building bridges

Aug. 1, 2011

Spc. Michael Sword, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

U.S. Army Europe

Photo credit Staff Sgt. Brendan Stephens

YAVORIV, Ukraine -- U.S. paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team out of Vicenza, Italy train with Ukrainian Paratroopers at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center (IPSC) in Ukraine as part of Exercise Rapid Trident 2011. Rapid Trident is a multi-national airborne operation and field training exercise (FTX) in support of Ukraine’s Annual Program to achieve interoperability with NATO.

YAVORIV, Ukraine – Rapid Trident 2011, underway at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center here, is in full swing and 13 nations have been training and conducting airborne operations together since the exercise started July 25.

Rapid Trident 2011 is a joint training and exercise program designed to enhance interoperability among Ukraine, the U.S. and Partnership for Peace member nations.  Having so many different languages and cultures training together adds a unique challenge to the training for the U.S. troops.

“It gets a little difficult with the language barrier but you have one or two guys that will speak English and help translate and it gets a lot easier at that point,” said Pvt. Erik Welde, of Battle Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, and a native of Invergrove, Minn..  “But I think it’s a real good experience. You get to see how other countries run together, how they work, how everything just comes together.”

For many here it is their first time training with partner nations, but already they can see the benefits to continued multi-national training.   

“It’s my first time working with any other country, other than in operations in Afghanistan,” said United Kingdom Army Pvt. Nathan Smith, a machine gunner with the 2nd Parachute Regiment.  “It’s been really worthwhile.”

Even the Soldiers that have trained with other nations before are finding Rapid Trident 2011 an invaluable opportunity, making them want more diverse multinational training experiences.

“It’s very good that all these countries are working together,” said Ukrainian Sgt. Vasilij Zajtsev, from Ukraine’s 13th airborne battalion. “I’ve worked with other nations before and it’s good.”

After a week into the exercise and two airborne operations, the 13 countries represented here are getting ready for the field training exercise and the ultimate goal of Rapid Trident 2011, enhanced interoperability, is well within reach.

“It’s good working with different units,” Smith said.  “In the long run, working together you get to know weaknesses, strengths and it could help for future reference.”

“I like being here,” Welde said.  “It’s different than training with just the American Army, but building bonds with partnering nations is a big deal.”
It’s the type of training the paratroopers can expect to put to use in future deployments to places like Afghanistan, where working together with other nations toward the same goal is a necessity, according to the one of the U.S. senior leaders in attendance. 

“Effective partnerships with nations that we are training with in Ukraine are necessary before we can build coalitions,” said Lt. Col. Michael Larsen, commander of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.  “If we have learned anything in this last decade of conflict it is that Coalitions are the center of gravity for success.”

“In order for true long term relationships to remain, it takes long term interaction,” he said.  “The U.S. Army being forward-based in Europe makes enduring relationships that much easier to maintain since we are not burdened with the tyranny of distance.”