When the 173rd Airborne Brigade dropped nearly a thousand paratroopers on Bashur airfield in northern Iraq (50 kilometers from the Turkish border) last week, many who knew about Bashur wondered why the paratroopers didn't just stay in the aircraft while it landed and let them walk out. The official reason given was that it was thought more prudent to drop them by parachute because this would put more combat ready troops on the ground more quickly in case there was any opposition. It would also allow all the participants to add the "combat jump" star to their paratrooper wings. So fifteen C-17s flew overhead, leaving behind the paratroopers and much parachuted equipment. The Bashur field can handle C-17s and C-130s. The field has been guarded, and upgraded, by local Kurdish militias for over ten years.