ZARAGOZA, Spain — At 1,200 feet in the air, moving at 130 knots, there is a distinct sensation when the side doors of a KC-130J Hercules open, rushing in the fast-moving air. Once the green light turns on, within a 30-second window more than 25 Spanish paratroopers rapidly exit the aircraft with the help of jumpmasters.
This is how the U.S. Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa train with the Spanish Parachute Brigade, Nov. 13, near Zaragoza, Spain.
"The more we can work with the Spanish, the more we can show the mutual support and mutual training objectives, as well as build relationships that will last well after our deployment," said Capt. James A. Evensen, a KC-130J Hercules pilot with SPMAGTF-CR-AF.
Spanish Brig. Gen. Juan Cifuentes Álvarez was part of the platoon-sized element of Spanish paratroopers. The general was the first one out of the aircraft, motivating and leading by example the young paratroopers.
"The experience I gathered from this training is invaluable," said Evensen. "I picked up my air delivery instructor qualification during the training and built trust with the Spanish."
During the weeklong training event, the Marines also had a chance to deliver heavy and light cargo loads to drop zones, closely working with their Spanish counterparts on the ground.
"These types of drops and the quantity that we are getting are pretty difficult to come by back home," said Evensen. "The enlisted air crew is also a lot more comfortable at reconfiguring the airplane in order to make the drops successful."
SPMAGTF-CR-AF is a self-sustaining crisis-response force prepared for the protection of American personnel and facilities on the African continent, when directed by U.S. Africa Command. The presence of SPMAGTF-CR-AF in Spain has enabled a notable increase in joint training opportunities, with more than 80 bilateral joint exercises between our militaries in the past two years.
"It's always a great time working with our Spanish counterparts and we are looking forward to working with them in the future," said Evensen.