News: Airborne to apex: A jumpmaster’s journey
Story by Spc. Cody Thompson
By Spc. Cody A. Thompson
40th Pubilc Affairs Detachment
FORT BRAGG, N.C. – For most paratroopers reaching the pinnacle of their jumping career involves earning their master parachutist wings. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Sanders, a senior interrogator with the XVIII Airborne Corps, reached this apex after becoming “airborne” again.
The master parachutist wings are awarded to individuals who have conducted 65 jumps from aircrafts, graduated from a jump masters course, and has served on jump status with an airborne unit for a minimum of 36 months. The award, which is the airborne equivalency of the Holy Grail, is the byproduct of a military career that has stretched across approximately three decades.
“In 1984, I served ‘more than’ five years on active duty in the Air Force,” said Sanders of his initial military enlistment.
While in the Air Force, Sanders was afforded the unique opportunity to be stationed in the United Kingdom for three years.
“That was the best time in my life,” said Sanders. “I got to play football, visit places like Buckingham Palace, parliament and the London Bridge. England has a beautiful country side, and I loved seeing all of the history.”
Seeking a new profession within the military, Sanders left the Air Force for the Army Reserve.
“I was really kind of young, and didn’t know any better, so I got off of active duty and thought I could make it on my own. After nine years in the [Army] reserves, I saw that I couldn’t make it on my own and decided that it was time to come back to active duty.”
After his time in the reserves, Sanders, a fourth generation veteran, decided that the Army was a good fit, and wanted to continue to grow as a Soldier.
“The Army was my choice,” he explained. “I didn’t want to go anywhere else but the Army, because my family has a history of serving in the military.”
Sanders choice to become an interrogator happened by chance, due to certain Army changes within the unit he was assigned to.
“I was in the 75th Ranger Regiment from 2002 to 2004, as a mechanic of all things, which is an excess MOS (military occupation specialty) for them,” said Sanders. “The Department of the Army started looking at the Ranger Regiment because a lot of people were hiding. They told them that all of their excess MOSs had to go and started shipping them out.”
Luckily his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery score was high, and enabled him to choose a different career field within the Army.
“What do you have that’s critical,” inquired Sanders to the career counselor. “He picked four of the top critical MOS fields, and put them on a piece of paper. With my hands over my eyes I pointed my finger, and came down on top of MI (military intelligence).”
Sanders asked the counselor for the top four professions within M.I. and once again closed his eyes, pointed and this time came up with interrogation.
“Once I got through the school and saw how interrogations were performed, I realized that I enjoyed it,” said Sanders. “Since then I’ve studied about how to be a better interrogator and how to perfect my craft.”
Despite the intense job of interrogation, Sanders still understands the value of a smile.
“I try my best not to come in and be the grumpy warrant officer that everyone has heard in the past,” said Sanders. “Laughing is fun. Laughing means that you’re not sitting there with a scowl on your face, thinking about how things could be better.”
This love for life and his Soldiers was taken a step further upon his return to Fort Bragg in 2009.
“When I first got here, I knew I was going to be back on jump status, but I have a very beat up right knee,” explained Sanders. “The doc has already told me, ‘your a 42-year-old person with a 65-year-olds knee.’”
Shortly after arriving, S3 Air asked Sanders to resume his duties because of a shortage of Jumpmasters.
“They told me, ‘sir a lot of Soldiers are probably going to be thrown to the wayside because we won’t be able to cover enough planes,’” said Sanders. “I made an appointment with orthopedics and told the doc, don’t take jump status away from me. These Soldiers are saying they need me; they need me as a jumpmaster sir.”
After being obtaining authorization to wear a stabilizing brace during jumps, Sanders committed to being a Jumpmaster once again.
Sanders' work ethic has caught the eye of his superiors.
“He loves the Army, his work and his Soldiers,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Stocks, a Quebec, Canada, native and assistant G2X. “That is never going to stop. He is one of the most motivated Soldiers I know.”
Although Sanders has taken the same passionate energy and applied it to his raising a family and completing a bachelor’s degree, his life journey has been anything, but an ordinary jump.