This operation was an non-commercial operation but an official exchange in between Airborne units.

This airborne adventure started out in the United States, it had been a few months since my last jump due to bad weather at my home station. If I didn’t get a jump in soon I could have become a what is called pay hurt (in the US Army they can take away your airborne pay if you don’t jump once a quarter) Getting ready to go on leave and looking for a jump I had planned on jumping with International Airborne Operations during Operation Croatia 2008. Unfortunately the trip had been postponed until later in the year. Luckily I had been in close contact with Stefan Eicker who was aware of my travel plans to Germany. Stefan took time out of his busy schedule, contacted the US Army Airborne unit that he was working with, and managed getting me on their US/German friendship jump.

It was an early morning; I arrived at the barracks at 4:00am. It was cold and the weather report expected snow. Everyone was tired but was highly motivated to participate in the day’s airborne operation. After the MACO brief we were assigned to our stick, and to a German Jumpmaster. We conducted jump sustainment and practiced actions in the aircraft using the German jump commands. We then moved out to the flight line and rigged up. We expected a one-hour flight before jumping, so after loading the C-130 aircraft I fell fast asleep. I woke up later and realized that the plane was still on the ground. Just then the pilots shut down the engines, and I thought the jump was cancelled. There was a problem with one of the generators, but the aircrew said that they could repair the aircraft. The air force mechanics ordered a new generator and fixed the engine in under an hour! Just before take off it started to snow. The jumpmasters called the Drop Zone party to check the cloud cover over the drop zone. The DZ party radioed back that we were good to go. The first stick stood up and was going through their jump commands, but then there was a problem with the door. The door would not stay open. The crewmen and jumpmasters quickly fixed the door, before the second pass over the drop zone. Sticks one and two jumped together on the same pass. The rest of the jump went as planned, and everyone made a safe landing.

The jump was a huge success! The day ended with an official wing ceremony and paratroopers from both the German and US armies were awarded foreign jump wings.
Not only did I receive German Jump wings, I was awarded the coveted gold German Master Wings! Germany’s highest airborne badge.

I would like to thank the soldiers and jumpmasters from the German and US airborne units for running an excellent airborne operation. I would also like to especially thank Stefan Eicker for coordinating this jump and making it possible for me to participate and earn the German Gold Wings.


Steve Payton

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