Seventy-four years after Hannah Senesh parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe, IDF paratroops jumped onto Polish soil during a large-scale international military exercise led by the US.
“After the jump, you have a feeling inside that you did something big... it’s hard to explain that feeling,” Lt. Lior Hendi told The Jerusalem Post before he and his fellow paratroops boarded the plane back to Israel. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Hendi and his fellow paratroops were the first Israeli paratroops to take part in the US Army European Command’s Swift Response 18 exercise, which is held in Europe and drilled with the 173rd Brigade of the European Command of the US Army.
“We were representing Israel, wearing our uniform alongside Americans and Italians... It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us, where we also learned a lot from each other,” Hendi said.
Hendi told the Post
that he and the other soldiers had trained for Swift Response for the past two-and-a-half months, carrying out several jumps as well as visiting Senesh’s grave on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
In addition to the operational parachute landing of IDF paratroops onto Polish soil, troops also drilled an exercise that included shooting and fighting in a variety of settings, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said.
According to Hendi, there was a mix of fear and adrenaline before and during the jump, but “after all the emotions, the moment I landed I felt that I did something very big, especially since the last time this happened was with Hannah Senesh, who wanted to do so much for the Jewish people. And we closed that circle.”
Approximately 2,300 soldiers from 10 different countries participated in Swift Response 18, which featured airborne exercises, joint forcible entry personnel and equipment drops, air assault operations, a force buildup using a short takeoff and landing strip, and noncombatant evacuation operations.
According to US Army Europe, Swift Response 18 is “one of the premier military crisis response training events for multinational airborne forces in the world,” and promotes readiness of participating units, while strengthening US allies and partner capabilities and fostering trust.
The combined training opportunity, which took place at locations in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, “greatly improves interoperability among participating NATO allies and key regional partners,” read a statement by the US Army.
“Over the past two weeks, the IDF paratroops have been training with US military fighters alongside troops from Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain and other countries. At the height of the exercise, we landed on Polish soil and practiced various operational missions,” said Maj. Amir Puri, commander of the paratroop force in the exercise.
“I was particularly moved to land on Polish soil and to train with my fellow soldiers in the 70th year of the State of Israel, an exercise that demonstrates the strength of cooperation between the IDF and the US Army.
“For me, it is a great honor to head the paratroops who represent the IDF and Israel in this exercise. The training was challenging and effective for the commanders and fighters, during which significant operational learning took place,” he added.
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