News: Spartans invite Alaskan leaders to JBER for a 'Paratrooper Experience'
Story by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Smith
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - South-central Alaskan community leaders joined forces with paratroopers from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division for a day of Arctic airborne activities Nov. 13, 2013 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
The group of more than 20 Alaskan leaders spanned across many professions vital to the community including police, city officials, school leaders, and congressional staff.
The event’s coordinator, Capt. Matthew Hickey, said the purpose for the event was to demonstrate the 4-25’s unique capabilities.
“As our Army’s only Arctic airborne brigade, we have special resources and equipment that we must use to accomplish our vast array of potential missions. It’s that equipment and resources that we’re showcasing to the people who provide it for us.”
At the Joint Mobility Complex the guests watched as Army riggers performed intensive quality control checks and safety inspections while packing the Army’s new T-11 personnel parachutes.
They learned how the Army and the Air Force work closely together to accomplish missions, not only in rapid personnel forced entry, but also in heavy drop operations.
The guests enjoyed taking part in “The Paratrooper Experience” by donning T-11 parachute harnesses complete with reserve parachutes.
Emphasizing safety, paratroopers performed a complete Jump Master Pre-Inspection (JMPI) for the group to see. The inspection was performed by highly trained airborne professionals who qualified as jump masters after extensive training and selection. After initially donning parachuting equipment, paratroopers underwent a JMPI to check for any deficiencies in their secured equipment, overall harness alignment and fit, static line, and fastening devices before preparing to jump.
Dr. Deena M. Paramo, the superintendent for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District, tried on one of the parachutes. She said it was heavy and a little uncomfortable, but confident in its ability to safely bring paratroopers to the ground.
“I was very impressed with all of the safety checks and the precision that goes into packing the parachutes and getting them on the soldiers,” said Paramo.
Sharon Anderson, Alaska’s civilian aid to the secretary of the Army, said, “This gives us details about what is happening with our men and women and what they are training to do, and what they do with the training. We don’t really get to see behind the scenes very often.”
Retired Army Col. George Vakalis, a 28-year veteran, who is now the city manager with the Municipality of Anchorage said, “It’s always great to come back and visit because things change, the barracks, the equipment, and to some extent, the techniques.”
Paratroopers with the 4-25 enjoyed the event because it gave them an opportunity to showcase their abilities. It was also an opportunity to get to know some key Alaskan leaders.
The 4-25’s commander, Col. Matthew McFarlane, said it is important to continue to establish bonds with the Alaskan community.
“It was a great event because it provided an opportunity to improve our ties with the greater Anchorage community,” said McFarlane. “We were able to educate them on some different aspects of our operations, so they could see the leadership and care that is involved in everything we do.”
Sgt. 1st Class John Young, an operations noncommissioned officer with the 4-25, said “It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with the community and show our airborne capabilities.”
In addition to “The Paratrooper Experience,” the Spartan brigade is involved in several community engagements.
Members of the Spartan Brigade volunteer in seven schools across the Municipality of Anchorage. The brigade’s School Partnership Program enhances community ties while providing close relations with educators and families.
The 4-25 recently welcomed nursing students from the University of Alaska Anchorage’s nursing school to JBER. The students educated paratroopers on domestic violence awareness, prevention, and response as part of their graduation capstone project.
Just before departing for the day, the group joined paratroopers at the brigade’s memorial in front of its headquarters for a moment of silence, remembrance, and prayer for the Spartan heroes who lost their lives in defense of America.
Spartan leaders plan to continue community partnerships efforts in the future. Connecting with the community builds closer ties with the greater Anchorage area and educates the community about the brigade’s capabilities and priorities as it shifts focus from the global war on terrorism to providing crisis and contingency response forces in support of U.S. interests in the Asian-Pacific region.