News: Paratroopers make big splash into Big Lake
Story by Staff Sgt. Matthew Winstead
BIG LAKE, Alaska - Paratroopers from the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment conducted a unique water based mission July 22 as they leapt from helicopters with the intent of landing in water as opposed to dry land.
The unit conducted the mission to better improve their overall readiness as well as to ensure that their paratroopers are well trained in landing in any type of conditions, to include that of a full borne water surface.
Water landings are normally considered a hazard and taught to be avoided under normal circumstances. However, a water landing does have practical uses and is a valid method of insertion for military units. Typically it is used more frequently by the U.S. Navy, Marines, and special forces units. With the training and experience of conducting a safe water landing, any significant body of water with sufficient depth can become a suitable drop zone for an airborne unit.
"This was really fun, I definately enjoyed doing it," said Spc. Jeff Zoller, a team leader and assistant gunner for weapons squad 'Apachie' Company of the 1-501st. "I'm just glad the water was warmer than we expected it to be. You know, being Alaska and all."
The paratroopers of the unit weren't the only ones making the most of the event. The Family Readiness Group for 'Apachie' Company has also taken the opportunity to set up a small food stand for the troops as they returned to dry land.
"This is sort of a new FRG tradition, I think I kind of started it," said Connie Baxter, the FRG leader for 'Apachie' Company. "Whenever the guys come back from the field I imagine that the idea of a home cooked meal would seem pretty good to them. So I always try to do that for them."
The FRG provided hot dogs and hamburgers along with some other food items for the drying paratroopers on shore.
The unit conducted what is known as elevators with rotary wing aircraft (Helicopters) to conduct the mission on the grounds of the nearby Big Lake airport. Paratroopers would load up and fly less than a mile away to jump into the lake with a standard T-10 Delta parachute and reserve. The only addition for the water landing was two CO 2 powered inflaitable 'floaties' under either arm which would keep the paratroopers afloat after landing. Zodiac boats manned by Army personnel from the unit would then quickly move to the bobbing jumper and get them to shore.
It wasn't long however before local spectators wanted to assist. Members of the Alaska State Troopers using one of their boats as well as several lake side residents appeared to assist in fishing out paratroopers from the lake and getting them to shore.
Shortly after noon the mission was complete and the unit began to move back to Joint Base Elmandorf-Richardson, leaving many smiling civilian families that were happy to have witnessed and assisted the mission.