Military parachuting in Israel has always been considered important from the very onset of the nation’s history when trained paratroopers from a range of countries set up parachuting activities in the fledging Israeli Defence Force in 1948. It was clear from the onset that a vigorous defence policy would be necessary were the nation to survive. And so it was proved. Trained parachutists were involved in a range of conflicts such as the War of Independence, Yom Kippur and the 6 Day War. It was due to this strong historical background that the idea of a commemorative event be organised with the intention of honouring the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, an event central to the national psyche. It was intended to invite delegates from a range of nations to partake with the intention of strengthening ties and forging friendships within the airborne brotherhood.

I heard of the event from the British governing body but knew immediately that this event would clash with several other events were also being arranged to celebrate the end of the war, this included a French event in the Pyrenees and also a jump by the Dutch Marines in Texel. It became clear that I was to be the only British delegate able to attend and would therefore need to arrange an attachment with a larger national group for administration and travel. Fortunately I was welcomed by Stefan Eicker from Germany and had all my administrative requirements quickly completed most effectively.

On arrival in Israel it became clear that the programme of events would be divided firstly into the activities linked to the jump, and secondly a very full and comprehensive social calendar that would focus on military and historic aspects of the country. The jump activities would cover special-to-force factors and refresher training to ensure those who had not jumped for a time were familiar with what was to come. These would be followed by the jump proper.
The entire party were bussed to the Para School for introductions and initial briefing by the military. The kit was fairly standard NATO style based on non steerable T10 canopies and front mounted reserves. A kit bag was to be folded under the reserve carrying handle so the main could be safely stowed once on the ground. Ground training covered; introduction to the aircraft (mock C130), PLF’s, exit techniques, harness work and action on emergencies.

The following day saw a pre-dawn reveille so all preparations could be made before the sun heated the air and created less ideal conditions. Once equipment had been issued the group were moved to the air mounting centre where kit was fitted and personnel placed into their sticks. The majority of the jumpers were Israeli forces, both male and female. The 49 foreign jumpers were included freely in the sticks reinforcing the feeling of integration that was rapidly becoming obvious. All too soon the two C130 aircraft landed and taxied in for the first lifts of the day. Once aboard the jumpers sat in the usual C130 configuration and awaited the run over the DZ. Following the order to stand each jumper was hooked up by the Jump Master rather than by the jumper himself. On the green light the usual practice of the left foot shuffle followed by those exiting the left door with the opposite for those on the right. A fast, standard tactical exit followed with the height at 2000 feet. Dispatching had been good with the sticks drifting nicely over the DZ, no smoke or wind sock was in evidence, each jumper being expected to self judge the wind direction and speed though drift and speed over the ground. The surface was light scrub over soft sand so landings were comfortable with just one minor injury amongst the foreign group. Once mains had been field packed and returned to the ground party, all jumpers made their way to an arranged party where the press and TV crews waited. Here the health of the group was toasted with champagne provided by the French contingent; this was all followed later with all members being presented with a certificate of qualification by the Commander of the Para School.

Israeli wings were presented that evening at a moving and spectacular event at the Paratrooper Memorial.

The whole event was wonderfully organised by the Israel Parachute Association with huge support from the IDF and Ministry of Tourism. All the delegates agreed that they been made to feel extremely welcome and the trip felt as it is had been given a serious level of importance by all involved. It appears most likely that the event will be repeated again in 2006. All round canopy and military jumpers should be urged to consider attending. It will probably be the premier event of the year.

by CPT Jerry Watkins / UK

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