26 March 2009

Leap into the great unknown

Six years ago the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade dropped into Bashur, Iraq, opening a northern front in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Here's a video about that jump, beginning with almost 1000 Sky Soldiers lining up with their C-17s on the runway in Aviano, Italy.

The weather was bad at takeoff and the drop zone muddy after weeks of heavy storms.

And while the jump was good, the aircraft "jumped long", spreading the brigade out. As the sun rose, it revealed LGOPPs - "little groups of pissed-off paratroopers" - strung out along the impossibly muddy and almost 10,000-yard-long drop zone. LGOPPs form when paratroopers link up with whomever is near them, regardless of unit, and move as a group to the assembly points.

This well-known photo shows how they looked after the jump.

Eventually, over 2000 troops and equipment, including 5 M1A1 tanks, 5 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 armored personnel carriers and 41 Humvees were airlifted to the field.

Last year I met a guy from the 173rd at Landstuhl here for a non combat-related medical condition. When he told me he was at the end of his second OEF deployment and had also done the drop into northern Iraq I was like, "OMFG! Let me give you a hug!!"

Greyhawk has much more on this stunning and historic moment with lots of photos and another video: Part 1, and Part 2.

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