News: Jump to feed the hungry
Story by Capt. Lisa Beum
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – Paratroopers begin to step out the passenger doors of the airplane 1,000 feet above the ground traveling at a speed of 140 miles an hour. It’s a familiar feeling, knowing they have about six seconds before their parachute opens and catches air. The only thing different this time is the commands to jump are in a different language.
Soldiers assigned to 16th Military Police Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C., completed an airborne operation led by German army jump master Sgt. Maj. Ronny Hahnlein here, Nov. 18. Hahnlein of Coburg, Bavaria, Germany, serves as liaison to the XVIII Airborne Corps here.
The event began with airborne refresher training shortly after 9 a.m. in the unseasonably warm weather at the "mock doors" – a training aid similar to the inside seating of a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft they would jump from later in the day. The purpose for the operation was both to continue certification for those on jump status, but more uniquely, it was led by a German jumpmaster so the military police would have the rare opportunity to earn foreign wings.
“You have the opportunity to do what no other military police battalion in the U.S. Army got to do today, earn foreign jump wings,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey A. Maddox, a member of the jumpmaster team for the operation.
The paratroopers lined up on the lawn in flight-manifest order for identification verification and initial equipment checks. Once the manifest was completed, they formed a large circle to review the T-11 parachute malfunctions procedures. They also rehearsed when and how to activate the reserve parachute if that became necessary.
Next they took turns "landing" four at a time by jumping off a waist-high concrete block about four feet wide by 12 feet long and landing in a sand box filled with small gravel. After each member of the flight had refreshed their landing, they boarded the "mock doors" in manifest order and rehearsed the flight from start to green light.
Hahnlein gave the commands in German and they were repeated in English by the jump master team. Due to aircraft noise, some of the commands use hand signals while voice commands are repeated by each member of the flight to ensure everyone is ready when the jump light turns from red to green.
“Outboard personnel stand up, inboard personnel stand up, secure static line, ten minutes, five minutes,” each command is repeated by jump master Sgt. 1st Class Kyle S. Feigum assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th MP Brigade, Fort Bragg, N. C.
“It’s a lot of fun having a different kind of jumpmaster,” said Sgt. Veronica L. Calzada of Cape May Court House, N.J., assigned to 65th MP Co. “Luckily they echoed the commands or I would have no clue what he was saying.”
On the command “final equipment check" each soldier taps the back of the person in front of them from the rear of the line to the front, and the last person gives a hand slap to the jump master standing by the jump door.
“One minute,” echoes Feigum, and then the command of purpose, “Stand bye.”
After the rehearsal is complete, the 52 soldiers load buses for the five-minute trip to Pope Army Airfield green ramp for parachute issue, jump master personnel inspection, and loading into the aircraft. After putting on their parachutes, they have at least 45 minutes to sit and think about the upcoming jump, or catch a nap on hard wooden benches inside an warehouse sized building.
At about 2:40 p.m., they march out into the sunlight and onto the airfield to the waiting aircraft in manifest order to board.
The drone of the four engine plane becomes more distinct as it clears the treeline over Sicily drop zone.
The command this entire days work has been for comes at 3:30 in the afternoon and is repeated three times, “Go, go, go!”
Precisely on time, the paratroopers begin jumping out into the afternoon wind on a clear day in 75 degree temperature. As they decelerate from the aircraft speed, they are picked up by the 10 mile an hour cross wind as their parachutes open. The aircraft makes two passes over Sicily drop zone depositing 26 jumpers with each pass. For six of these jumpers, this is their first jump with the unit since graduating airborne training.
They all land without incident or injury, pack up their parachutes and hike off the drop zone to a parking lot at the edge of the field where the buses are waiting to return them to the unit. When everyone is accounted for, they board the buses for the 10 minute ride back to 16th MP Brigade footprint.
“I think it was fantastic,” said Pfc. Ronnie Jackson assigned to material supply with HHC, 16th MP Brigade. “The weather was more than perfect.”
The soldiers stand in formation after sunset to receive their foreign jump wings from German army Lt. Col. Anreas Wiechert liaison to XVIII Airborne Corps.
The German wings were awarded in bronze for first time foreign jumpers, silver for second foreign jumps, and gold for three-time foreign jumps to the paratroopers who had spent all day training for their minute and a half glide to the ground.
“What can I say?” said Wiechert. “We are not here for jumping, or German sportsman proficiency badges, or marksmanship. That’s not our main focus, though we like it very much. But the main focus is working on exchanging concepts and training experiences between our two countries. This is more than just exchanging badges, it is a visible sign of our partnership and our friendship.”