The annual event brought together 102 paratroopers from Central America and the United States in Honduras.
Paratroopers took over the skies of the central Honduran region of Comayagua for a multinational jump. More than 100 paratroopers came together at Soto Cano Air Base, headquarters of U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-Bravo) for the annual jump dubbed Flying Iguana 2018.
The U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), in cooperation with the Honduran Army, through its 2nd Air Transport Infantry Battalion, hosted the February 24th event. Flying Iguana counted with 102 expert paratroopers from the United States, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Panama.
“Each person was selected for this training at least a month ahead of time,” Honduran Army Colonel Jesús Jeovanny Moreno Cruz, spokesperson for the 2nd Air Transport Infantry Battalion, told Diálogo. “[They were chosen] abiding by the standards and regulations of a good paratrooper: discipline, judgment, and courage.”
The purpose of the training is to enhance participants’ skills, share new techniques, and improve the field of jumping. The multinational event, which paratroopers look forward to, is also an opportunity to strengthen bonds of cooperation and camaraderie among partner nations in the Americas.
Over the course of four days, participants trained for the event through various exercises, including physical training and mock jumps. “Even though participants were chosen for their experience, pre-jump preparation was essential, as soldiers had not previously worked together,” explained Honduran Army Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Fernando Torres Menjívar, deputy director of the Honduran Armed Forces Parachute School, who participated in Flying Iguana 2018. The colonel counts with 250 jumps throughout his career, including several international jumps.
“[We reinforced] training for free fall to prevent fractures, jumps from 34 feet and practiced techniques to exit the aircraft,” Lt. Col. Torres explained. “[We practiced making] a good exit, checking the canopy of the chute, always looking around during descent, and preparing for landing—and also taking emergency actions inside the aircraft.”
Participants also received academic instruction to complete the jumps safely. Service members studied different types of parachutes, the aircraft to be used for the jump, and jump zones, among other information.
“All the training we received was given in a briefing in the jump zone, getting to learn about the helicopter for the jump and the voice commands lead jumpers use,” Lt. Col. Torres said. “In addition, [the training included] emergency actions before, during, and after the exercise.”
The Flying Iguana jump
Participants used round, static-line T-10 and MC1 parachutes manufactured in the United States. The exercise had logistics support from JTF-Bravo’s 1st Battalion, 228th Aviation Regiment, which not only facilitated the location but also provided a Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter for the jumps.
Paratroopers completed their jumps from 07:00 to 11:00 hours, jumping from an altitude of more than 900 meters. Depending on weather variables, the weight of each jumper, and the type of parachute being used, the descent took between 2 and 4 minutes.
“It’s important to mention that this kind of military training helps the Central American region forge brotherly bonds of cooperation,” Col. Moreno said. “[The exercise] reinforces those capacities, as parachuting is used to get to remote areas in support of humanitarian aid operations.”
The multinational exercise was first held in 1997. In 2002, the exercise took on the name Flying Iguana in honor of a tree-borne lizard species at risk of extinction in the Central American region.
The 2008 event saw the highest level of participation, with experts from 17 nations across the Americas (Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay). According to Col. Moreno, the 2019 edition will include for the first time female personnel from the Honduran Army.
The elite paratrooper exercise ended with a wing exchange between partner nations in affirmation of their brotherhood. The experience, Lt. Col. Torres said, left behind “a good training and work relationship with the nations of Central America. We need to spread that for future training events.”