News: 17th conducts night jump in the Lone Star state
Story by Pfc. Lalita Guenther
SAN ANTONIO – Combine weapons training, communications skills, multiple unit movements, and a night jump – what do you get? 17th Psychological Operations Battalion’s March Battle Assembly.
The command, from Austin, Texas, conducted a command-wide training exercise on Camp Bullis, combining three of four companies for the first time since redeployment more than a year ago. The training was designed to help establish baseline training – what the commander called “back to standard.”
“This is the first year we are all starting to train together and get people airborne qualified,” stated 1st Sgt. Billy Lambert of the 345th Psychological Operations Company, 17th POB. “This battle assembly is a little bit different in that we are doing a range and an airborne operation on the same weekend, which we have not done since I have been here.”
The 17th POB conducted consolidated weapons qualification, communications training, and other basic soldier skills as well as conducted a night jump.
“It is a monumental occasion,” said Master Sgt. Mark Garland, the battalion operations sergeant for the 17th POB. “This is the first night jump we will have done since the battalion commander has been here.”
Garland said it is the battalion commander’s goal to make sure the unit is up to date on airborne qualifications. This jump is to establish and maintain airborne proficiency. Since most airborne operations happen at night, it is imperative that the soldiers are current on night-jump training.
Airborne training requires a lot of cooperation from external agencies.
“We have to coordinate with various outside support,” said Garland. “Like Air Force combat controllers, the Fort Sam Houston fire rescue crash crew, and parachute rigger support.”
This makes for a lot of added pressure for the first night jump in about a year, and it does create issues, said Garland. Those issues were worked through, and Lambert pointed out, “It is working out really well.”
Paratroopers conducted a “Hollywood” jump, meaning there is no combat equipment – just the soldiers and their chutes. 45 soldiers had a unique experience jumping off of the ramp, or the tail end of a C-130 Hercules aircraft.
“We jumped at night, we jumped off of the ramp of a C-130 and we even had an on-board rigging with one of our jumpmasters,” said Capt. Julie Rosado, a jumpmaster with the 17th POB, “This was incredible.”
Regardless of its intricacy, this operation was important to the commander of the 17th POB, Lt. Col. Robert Sentell, because the 17th POB returned just a year ago from Iraq and was in need of some skill refreshing.
“We wanted to establish a baseline this weekend,” said Sentell. “We did this by having all of our Texas based units in one location. Pretty soon, we will have our Baton Rouge unit relocate to San Marcos, Texas.”
“This mission is all about rebuilding,” said Garland. “The battalion commander wants us to start at square one with the progression.
“Beginning an airborne progression means starting with the basic daytime Hollywood jump, and progressing to nighttime full combat equipment jump, to allow all soldiers to make a smooth transition for real-world combat missions,” added Garland.
Despite the many hurdles the battalion jumped over, the starlit Texas sky welcomed the jumpers as they concluded their long weekend of training and preparations.
“There were a couple of hiccups like always, but they worked through them,” said Master Sgt. Eric Soto, jumpmaster and S-3 non-commissioned officer-in-charge in the 7th Psychological Operations Group. “It was a great jump.”