International partners participate in a D-Day anniversary airborne operation
CAMP LEMONNIER, DJIBOUTI – To commemorate World War II's Allied invasion of Normandy, termed "D-Day", United States, French and Italian service members stationed in Djibouti participated in a commemorative jump near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, June 6, 2017. The bilateral jump was in honor of the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, and also celebrated the continued partnership of allied forces.
French Forces Djibouti provided the Transall C-160 tactical transport aircraft used in the jump as well as the parachutes. The jump was led by French jumpmasters and all service members who participated earned French jump wings.
On a date that will forever live in infamy, June 6, 1944, allied forces fought together for control of German occupied beaches of Normandy, France. While international relations have changed drastically over the past 73 years, the French and U.S. military partnership has remained alive and well. That partnership is strengthened by the multi-national NATO alliance thriving in the Horn of Africa today.
Combined Force Task Force - Horn of Africa prioritizes bilateral cooperation between the two military contingents forward-stationed in Djibouti in order to promote esprit-de-corps and continued partnership between the United States and France.
French Jumpmaster, Sergeant Major David, made a statement about why the jump was important to him, saying, “Training together is always good for both of us. The most important part of this, the real aim and focus for today, is to honor the partnership between the French and the Americans…73 years ago to this day, France will never forget.”
To attain the title as a French Jumpmaster, service members have to complete a series of different jumps to attain the skill level to train others. They perform a minimum of one night jump, one jump with cargo attached near their feet (known as a combat load), as well as a minimum of four standard jumps. Doing so earns them a jumpmaster wings pin for their uniform. An honorary version of the wings was given to each member who joined the French for this commemorative jump.
In preparation for this event, the French jumpmasters hosted a Basic Airborne Refresher course at the French Forces in Djibouti installation. The training put an emphasis on the differences between using French parachutes and procedures and those that most U.S. and Italian service members are familiar with. The training paid off, as proven by the jump’s success with no mishaps or injuries.
Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, Brig. Gen. David Furness, was in the drop zone to greet those who were landing. Gear was then packed up and members returned to Camp Lemonnier for a pinning ceremony.
One of the French jumpmasters, who asked only to be referred to as Eric for operational security, said, “It was a good experience for us showing them the French parachutist way. We hope to continue to work together in future events like this with our partners.” Eric added, “Maybe next time the we could jump from a U.S. C-130? We would like to jump together more!”
Major General Thierry Duquenoÿ, Commander of French Forces in Djibouti, participated in the jump and then spoke at the ceremony that followed.
“It’s been a great pleasure to jump with our friends, it’s been an honor to commemorate D-Day with you as well.” said Duquenoÿ.
Also in attendance to comment was Col. Stéphane Caille, Chief of Staff for French Forces in Djibouti. Giving a moving speech about the significance of the day and what the anniversary jump means to him, Caille said, “Today we pay tribute to the men and women who sacrificed their lives on D-Day so that we could live our lives in freedom. Today we underscore our friendship and solidarity here in Djibouti and around the world in the continued fight for freedom and justice.”
Caille spoke of how he felt that all paratroopers are a family and that on this day the jump embodied a gathering of family and friends, saying this of the American friends, “The French people will never forget that France is thankful for these soldiers and their forefathers. Our France is thankful to your United States. We remember the long history between the United States and France, and French Forces in Djibouti are committed every day to continue writing our part of this great story with our U.S. brethren.”
This successful jump came about as a combined and joint effort to plan and execute. And so, together, Duquenoÿ, Furness and Caille presented each of those who jumped their French Jumpmaster wings, recognizing the success of their combined efforts.
Many of the service members who jumped had participated in bilateral jumps before, but for some it was their first time. For all, there was shared comradery and pride in receiving their French jump wings from the leaders who presented them, particularly on this momentous day.
After receiving his French jump wings, U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Quentin Thompson said, “This particular jump has a lot of significance to many of us, it was an honor to be a part of it all.”