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173rd Airborne paratroopers conduct live-fire exercise in Ukraine

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s Company C, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade (Sky Soldiers), conducted squad live-fire exercises during a pause of the second rotation of Fearless Guardian in Yavoriv, Ukraine.

Fearless Guardian is the name for the Congress-approved, Departments of State, and Department of Defense initiative under the Global Security Contingency Fund-Ukraine.

The mission and program of instruction come at the request of the Ukrainian government.

The paratroopers are in Ukraine for the second of three rotations to train Ukraine’s newly-formed national guard and is scheduled to last through November.

The second rotation, which began in June, paused for two weeks to conduct the annual exercise Rapid Trident.

This exercise brought approximately 1,800 soldiers from 18 nations to the International Peacekeeping and Security Center, or IPSC, in Ukraine that focused on defensive operations as well as integrating command posts among the different countries and units.

With not all the paratroopers from Company C participating in Rapid Trident, the company took advantage of the pause to sharpen some of its own skills.

"During Rapid Trident we are taking advantage of the assets available to us to continue to train," said 1st Sgt. Danial Heflin, the senior noncommissioned officer for Company C.

Adding, "The purpose of doing squad live fires is to ensure our unit maintains its proficiency."

For the live-fire training, paratroopers spent several days setting up targets and bunkers in the woods of the IPSC, followed by multiple blank-ammunition practice runs.

The scenario involved paratroopers on patrol encountering enemy targets to which they reacted by returning fire and destroying the targets.

The exercise culminated with a squad-size assault against an entranced enemy.

"I have never left to another country since arriving in Italy and it’s pretty cool being in Ukraine, training Ukrainian soldiers," said Pfc. Derek Garcia, a paratrooper assigned to Company C. "To train in the woods here is an experience not many will be able to have."

The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe.

Based in Vicenza, Italy, the brigade provides ready forces to deploy anywhere in the U.S. European, Africa and Central Commands areas of responsibility in 18 hours or less.