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News | Dec. 18, 2023

Strengthening Partnerships: “Sky Soldiers” achieve historic first at Colombia's Lancero school

By Maj. Joe Legros, 173rd Airborne Brigade

VICENZA, Italy — In a historic achievement, three U.S. Army paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade became the first non-special operations Soldiers to successfully complete Colombia's prestigious Lancero school.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Raymond Colon, Sgt. Angel Partidas and Sgt. Darwin Guevara, all ‘Sky Soldiers with the brigade’s 1st Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, overcame weeks of rigorous training in the jungles of Colombia to earn the Lancero badge.

Situated in Tolemaida, Colombia, the Lancero school serves as the initial tier of the Colombian special operations training program, drawing inspiration from the U.S. Army Ranger School. The curriculum is specifically tailored to impart skills in guerilla or irregular warfare, with a focus on jungle and mountain terrains.

“Since September, Staff Sgt. Colon, Sgt. Guevara and Sgt. Partidas have been part of Lancero’s international course,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Carlson, command sergeant major, 173rd Airborne Brigade. “They’ve endured and been tested in one of the hardest military schools in the world.”

The Soldiers underwent grueling conditions, including minimal sleep while conducting consecutive missions, throughout the intense 73-day course.

"It was an unforgettable experience," said Guevara, one of the newest Lancero graduates.

To earn the esteemed title of Lancero, the paratroopers faced challenges such as scaling the mountains of Bogota, reaching altitudes exceeding 13,000 feet (almost 4,000 meters), and navigating a demanding 25-day jungle phase at Fuerte Amazonas II.

Instructors provided guidance on how to successfully manage the rigorous terrain, deal with insects and utilize the wildlife they encountered. Additionally, participants learned how to trap and kill wild game for survival.

Each of the graduates agreed that the Lancero school was one of the most mentally challenging courses they have encountered. These words take on stronger significance considering all three also don U.S. Army Ranger tabs on their uniforms.

There was debate over which school was more physically demanding, but they all agreed there were similarities.

"Just like [U.S.] Ranger school, you are hungry, you are tired, but you are still expected to perform," remarked Colon.

Since its inception in 1956, the Lancero school has seen numerous U.S. soldiers graduate from its annual international course, held each September. But the most recent three graduates hold the distinction of being the first non-special operations Soldiers from the U.S.

The three ‘Sky Soldiers’ proudly carry the titles of American Lancero graduates No. 151, 152, and 153, marking a significant milestone in the enduring bond between the U.S. and Colombian militaries.