For the first time Israeli paratroopers participated in the United States-led Swift Response military exercise in Poland, alongside eight other U.S. allies, The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.
Lt. Lior Hendi told the Post before he and his fellow soldiers returned home to Israel, “We were representing Israel, wearing our uniform alongside Americans and Italians… It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us, where we also learned a lot from each other.”
The training for the multinational exercise, Hendi said, took two and a half months. The paratroopers also visited the grave of Hannah Senesh on Mount Herzl. Senesh, who is a national hero in Israel, was one of 32 young European Jewish men and women who volunteered for the British to parachute into Nazi Europe. Senesh was caught and executed.
Though admitting to some fear before the exercise, Hendi said, “after all the emotions, the moment I landed I felt that I did something very big, especially since the last time this happened was with Hannah Senesh, who wanted to do so much for the Jewish people. And we closed that circle.”
The U.S. military called Swift Response 18 “one of the premier military crisis response training events for multinational airborne forces in the world. The exercise includes approximately 2,300 participants from seven Allied and partner nations that will take place at locations in Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.”
The goal of the exercise is to promote “readiness of participating units, while strengthening U.S. ally and partner capabilities and fostering trust. The combined training opportunities that it provides greatly improves interoperability among participating NATO allies and key regional partners.”
In addition to Israel and the United States, the 2,300 participating soldiers came from Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
“Over the past two weeks, the IDF paratroops have been training with US military fighters alongside troops from Italy, the United Kingdom, Spain and other countries. At the height of the exercise, we landed on Polish soil and practiced various operational missions,” Maj. Amir Puri, the commander of the Israeli paratroops, told the Post.
“I was particularly moved to land on Polish soil and to train with my fellow soldiers in the 70th year of the State of Israel, an exercise that demonstrates the strength of cooperation between the IDF and the US Army,” he added.
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Twitter ]