|Army Jump School|
|Not Just a Training Course for Soldiers|
When you think about the term "paratroopers," you probably think about the U.S. Army. And, the Army does have more paratroopers than any of the other services. However, all of the services have troops who are trained to jump out of perfectly good aircraft, and all of those troops go through the same training at the Army's Airborne School.
As in the current war on terrorism, paratroopers have been, and continue to be, an incredibly valuable asset in areas often too dangerous or inaccessible for traditional ground troops.
When you think of Navy paratroopers, the first thing that may come to mind is the SEALs; but other Sailors go through Ft. Bennings Jump School as well. Hospital corpsmen, aircrew survival equipmentmen, Seabees, special boat unit members and explosive ordnance disposal members can attend this advanced training course.
In the Air Force, pararescue, combat controllers, and combat weather also go through Army "Jump School." Additionally, other Air Force members may apply, such as security forces, aircrew life support instructors, and aircrew members.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (FMF) Ray Letada, of Naval Hospital Great Lakes, Ill., said the school will help him to be a more versatile corpsman. If needed in a special ops situation, I can make a jump and be better able to help my Marines, he said.
The Armys 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Infantry Regiment has the responsibility of operating the U.S. Army Airborne School. The instructors, known as Black Hats or Sergeant Airbornes, represent all four branches of the military, with every instructor qualified as an Army jumpmaster.
Four line companies (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta) execute the BAC program of instruction. The platoon sergeants, section sergeants and squad leaders stay with their students, training them through each phase. This continuous supervision strengthens the students unit cohesion and increases their level of discipline.
The instructors here are great, said Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Scott Shore, a student in Alpha Co. Safety is the key to everything. They all want to see us make it and hit the drop zone safely.
Jump School is not for the faint of heart. It involves a rigorous three-week training course consisting of three separate phases Ground Week, Tower Week and Jump Week, as well as an intense daily physical fitness regimen.
At 36 years old, said Letada, Im one of the oldest guys in the class, but Ive always kept myself in good shape. As an FMF corpsman, you are expected to be in just as good shape as the Marines, if not better.
During Ground Week, students begin an intensive program of instruction to build individual airborne skills, preparing them to make a parachute jump and land safely. They train on a mock door, a 34-foot tower and a lateral drift apparatus (LDA). To proceed to Tower Week, the students must individually qualify on the tower and the LDA.
Safety is the No. 1 priority here, said instructor Andrews. Its a high-risk training environment here, and basically everything is oriented toward each student getting through the training. We strive to make them ready for any contingency that may come up on a jump.
The individual skills learned during Ground Week are needed during Tower Week, and the mass exit concept is added to the training. Additional apparatuses used during this week are a swing harness and a 250-foot free tower. Tower Week completes the individuals skill training and builds team effort skills. To go forward to Jump Week, each student must qualify on the SLT, and master the mass exit procedures from the mock door and 34-foot tower.
Jump Week is a whole different animal. All the skills learned in the previous two weeks are finally put to use. The students must complete five jumps. The first is with all their combat gear, and the second is a mass exit with students filing out of two doors at the same time. The next two jumps combine what they learned from the first two, with the students doing a mass exit jump with full combat gear. The last jump is made using high-speed, steerable parachutes.
It never really dawned on me until I was actually up in that plane. I thought, my Lord, in 20 minutes, the only way out is through the chute, said Andrews. On your first jump, he continued, they pause each student in the door and give you your own stand-by. When you stand in the open door for a couple of seconds, its an eye-opening experience for your first time. As youre looking down, youre conquering you own fears.
The days start early and the nights run late with the vast amount of knowledge and hands-on training crammed into this three-week course. Students are up and running at 5 a.m. They train straight through until 5 p.m., when most head for the gym or go off to study techniques learned that day. Due to the high-risk nature of the training, there is very little margin for error.
Those who cannot make the cut are not around very long. If a student has trouble grasping the jump course, they are recycled back to the next class.
After that, if their deficiencies are not remedied, they are dropped from the training for their own safety as well as the safety of others.
An average class starts with about 360 students, but in the end, around 100 or so dont make it.
According to Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Dornin, an instructor with Charlie Company, The students from the sister services seem to have a lower drop-out rate than the Army students, because they are either coming from rigorous training, such as BUD/S, or they are just a little more seasoned and disciplined.
Andrews added, the biggest challenge overall for the students is mastering the parachute landing falls (PLFs). Once you learn how to properly land, and you can do your PLF like we instructed you hit, shift, rotate and keep your feet together youll be able to get up and walk away, do another jump and carry on with your mission. As long as you get up and brush yourself off, life is good.
But, one question still remains Why do they want to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft? Students seem to have their own reasons for volunteering for this type of training.
Even as a kid, I knew I wanted to do something high-speed, said Shore, who is on his way to a SEAL team on the West Coast. Going to BUD/S and becoming a SEAL has been a life-long dream for me. So, learning to jump out of planes is just a step along the way to that dream.
Letada had different reasons for going to the school. The biggest challenge for me is to be able to relax and overcome my fear of heights.
Whether its learning a new skill, or overcoming personal challenges, each student takes away something different.
The most important thing for any student to take away from this place, is to have confidence in themselves and know that any obstacle they encounter can be overcome, summed up Andrews.
They were challenged here, and making it through this course will prepare them for whatever lies down the road.
Graduation for Airborne Training is normally conducted at 1100 on Friday of Jump Week at the south end of Eubanks Field on the Airborne Walk. However, if weather, or some other reason delays the scheduled jumps, graduation may be conducted on Fryar Drop Zone (DZ) after the last jump.
Guests and family members are welcome to observe all of the jumps at the DZ, attend the graduation ceremony, and participate in awarding the wings. Fryar DZ is located in Alabama on the Fort Benning Military Reservation. To get to Fryar Field DZ, visitors should drive to Lawson Army Airfield (LAAF). Drive to the left around LAAF. At the stop sign turn left and drive about 5 miles to the next stop sign. Follow signs to the drop zone parking area.
Following graduation students are allowed to depart for leave, or their next duty assignment. Guests and family members may qualify for billeting privileges at the Gavin House on Fort Benning. They can determine their billeting eligibility by calling the Fort Benning Billeting Office at (706) 689-0067.
Above Information Courtesy of United States Navy and United States Army