On Monday, military units stationed a Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson begin a massive multinational training operation, with hundreds of paratroopers are departing for Australia as part of the exercise.
Soldiers from the 425th Airborne Brigade stationed at JBER are flying down for Operation Talisman Saber, which the U.S. and Australia run every two years.
According to the Army, more than 33,000 personnel are involved in the drill, which officials say bolsters preparedness with allies in the Pacific region.
For many Alaska-based troops, it is their first jump in a foreign country. Once there, teams will help secure an airstrip as part of their field exercises.
It’s First Class Private James Goodman’s job to to lug around a 26-pound 240 Lima machine gun that he’ll be jumping with for the first time.
“It’s a little awkward,” Goodman said of attaching the 3-and-a-half foot weapon to his left side, “but you just pretty much work through the pain, get a good jump out the door, and everything else is pretty easy.”
Talisman Saber costs an estimated $23 million.
While a few units are staying in Australia for additional exercises, most will head back to Alaska by the end of the week, finishing with a second paratrooper jump in the training areas near JBER.
The Army has only conducted airborne missions a handful of times in active war zones over the last few decades.
The 425th is one of the units on the table for reduction or elimination under the military’s current nation-wide draw down.