My first deployment with 5th Group was to Zaire in 1987.
While it may now be called the Democratic Republic of Congo, it'll always be Zaire to me.
We flew in to Kinshasa and stayed a couple days at the Zaire Army's 31st Parachute Brigade headquarters compound. At that time, the 31st Para Bde was advised by French officers, and the brigade was actually commanded by an Active Duty French Army Colonel.
We boarded our Air Force C-141 and flew several hours southeastward into Shaba Province, where we did an in-flight parachute rig and conducted a parachute jump onto Kamina Airfield.
We spent a few weeks in Kamina training with our Zaire Army brethren, then returned home to the U.S.
If any remember the movie "The Dogs of War" (with Christopher Walken), Zaire was a hell of a lot like that fictitious African Country "Zangaro." Armed Gendarmes and military checkpoints, chickens and livestock wandering in the streets, etc. Everywhere were billboards and signs bearing the likeness of (then) Zaire's "President" (for life) Mobuto Sese Seko, wearing leopard skin cap and sun glasses.
While most of the French Army officers were snooty, the Zaire Paratroopers we worked with were very motivated and a joy to work with. Having made parachute jumps with other Third World Paratroopers, the Zaire troops we were with loved to jump, and they insisted on making the equipment and night time jumps like we normally do. Some highly motivated troops.
Several of them were veterans of anti-insurgent operations in southeastern Zaire, around Lake Tanganyika.
After the training exercise was concluded, each of we 76 American Soldiers were awarded the Zaire Army Parachutist Badge (my certificate and wings are mounted on the wall of my "man cave."
During the course of my time there I did what all Soldiers do when working with troops from other nations - traded gear.
I brought home a pair of Zaire Army uniforms, different styles - one appears almost like a brown and green 'tiger stripe' pattern. Many of the more seasoned troops preferred this, I assume, older style uniform, as did the French advisors. One of the caps of matching pattern, with the hanging neck flaps at the back - which we called "lizard hats" - as well as a regular cap. Insignia includes a couple pattern Zaire Jump Wings - I personally wore a set of the older, "cooler" version on my U.S. Class A green uniform - as well as beret badge and some pins.
I managed to swap for some really cool Parachute Brigade shirts - One of the 313th Battalion, 31st Parachute Brigade, and one from their anti-insurgent operations in the Lake Tanganyika area.
The DSP shirt is from the Zaire Army's Special Presidential Division.
These are some U.S. Army Civil Affairs flyers I brought home from Zaire.
A couple photos taken during the deployment. In the second photo I'm taking a knee - with the glasses.
Certificates for my Zaire (and Kenyan) Parachutists Wings on my wall. The Zaire Army Parachutist Wings I wore on my dress uniform.