Eight Army ROTC Cadets from around the U.S. landed in Madrid, Spain June 1 with the missions of teaching Spanish soldiers tactical English, gaining a better understanding of Spanish culture, and earning our Spanish Airborne wings. These goals were achieved through countless hours in the classroom, various training environments, and visits to various cities in Spain.
Shortly after arriving we were plunged headlong into Spanish culture by enjoying a traditional lunch followed by a visit to the Sofia Renia Museum.
A few days later we were introduced to the soldiers we would accompany for the next few weeks. These Spanish paratroopers are part of the elite Brigada Paracaidista (BRIPAC) of the Spanish Army. The unit has been in existence since 1953 and has seen combat in multiple theaters such as Kosovo, Bosnia, and also as a quick reaction force (QRF) in Afghanistan.
We trained to the Spanish Army’s schedule beginning with a five to seven mile run in the mornings, followed by teaching English to the Spanish soldiers, and then either military training or a chance to experience the culture by traveling to nearby towns. On the weekends we travelled to Spanish cities accompanied by a few of the Spanish soldiers who acted as guides. These trips included visits to the Infantry Academy and the Army Museum in Toledo, the Artillery Academy and the Military Archives in Segovia, and to the unit museum on the base. Other visits included the historical cities of Madrid, Sevilla, and Barcelona.
Throughout the three weeks that we were with Spanish soldiers, we felt like we formed a brotherhood. Every day that we were together we began to grow closer to each other. One day in particular we jumped with the Spanish paratroopers, earning our Spanish Airborne wings, called Rokiski. The Spanish airborne soldiers also earned their U.S. Army Airborne wings. This day we put our lives in the hands of each other as we helped each other rig our parachutes in preparation for the jump. It was a great bonding experience. After we completed the jump we celebrated with an afternoon out to lunch.
At the end of the mission we said our farewells and traded gifts with our new brothers-in-arms knowing that the wisdom we all gained on this once-in-a-lifetime mission gave us the cultural knowledge that we may someday need to complete a multi-national mission.