Canadian and American paratroopers are training at Fort Bragg this week as leaders push to make the forces more interchangeable.
More than 50 Canadian soldiers are training with the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
The two forces will kick off a large joint training event Friday, with more than 600 soldiers jumping from five C-17s onto two drop zones at Fort Bragg. The training also will involve two Canadian CH-47 helicopters, which will ferry soldiers from both armies on training assaults.
The Canadians will work with the 82nd Airborne to resolve issues that could come up in a real-life battle. The 82nd Airborne in recent years has played host to a number of international paratroopers, including Germans, British, Italians and Dutch, as part of its training.
The Canadian and American soldiers will learn how each side operates in the air and work on communication issues, Canadian Lt. Col. Will Graydon said Tuesday.
Graydon said he's certain the two forces could communicate with each other when shooting starts, but passing digital data, like maps or images, is more challenging. The tests conducted during the training will work to ensure that's a possibility.
Graydon said the training would help "iron out bugs" and push the two sides to understand their limitations.
"We fight together, everywhere we go," he said. "We have a route to interoperability and we're not far off. We did it in Afghanistan, it's just a matter of doing it here."
On Tuesday, the U.S. and Canadian soldiers prepared for the training by familiarizing themselves with the Canadian Chinooks, which are newer models than what the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade flies.
With the 82nd's fleet of Chinooks in Louisiana for training with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, the Canadians are filling in, officials said.
As soldiers went over emergency procedures, a cold, light drizzle fell.
"Just like home," Graydon said with a smile.
The Canadian soldiers are based in Petawawa, Ontario, northwest of Ottawa, or about 1,000 miles from Fort Bragg and comprise the bulk of Graydon's battalion headquarters.
They'll fall under Col. Joseph Ryan, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, during the training, but also will oversee a company of American paratroopers and a troop of American cavalry scouts.
That plug-and-play mentality mimics what leaders have developed with other nations.
Speaking of past interoperability training, Brig. Gen. Brian Winski, a deputy commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, said British paratroopers, who trained extensively with the 82nd Airborne's 2nd Brigade earlier this year, could have filled in as a subordinate unit to the 82nd Airborne if needed.
That's what the Canadians are working toward, Graydon said.
But the force also is hoping to do more in its home country. The Canadian army is looking to develop its light forces and may want to develop its own quick reaction force modeled after the 82nd Airborne and the Global Response Force mission.
"It's something light forces could offer the Canadian Armed Forces and ultimately, the government of Canada," Graydon said.
Reinvigorating the training relationship with the 82nd Airborne will be key to those efforts, if they move forward.
"Building this relationship is exactly what would allow Canada to have an impact," he said. "We absolutely want to make this an annual event."
"It's a great opportunity," Graydon added. "It builds relationships, not just between units, but personal relationships."
In the air, he said, the paratroopers are "remarkably similar, in fact, almost identical."
As the training continues, the similarities will continue to grow.
"We're all getting better," he said.
And if there comes a time when Canadian and American paratroopers must fight together, "This just makes it that much easier to do."