So you’re scared of heights, yet somehow you’ve found yourself in line to jump out of a C-130. Your mind is reeling with all the stuff you’ve been taught to land safely, but still, if you screw it up, it could mean your life. No big deal, right?


But that’s the life of a Basic Airborne School recruit at Fort Benning, Georgia. The three-week course, which sees about 14,000 trainees a year, is mostly filled with recruits right out of basic training or AIT who want to be paratroopers, Army Rangers or other special operations forces across the Defense Department. Some of them have chosen to be there, while others have not – their specialties require it.


I’ve been told Airborne School is kind of like grade school: Ground Week training is like elementary school, Tower Week is like high school, and Jump Week is college.

During Ground Week, you learn how you’re supposed to jump, activate your reserve parachute and recover from “the drag” – being dragged across the drop zone if the wind catches your chute. During Tower Week, trainees learn about all the bad things that can happen, like landing in trees, water, etc., and how to get out of those situations. You then get to practice what you’ve learned by jumping off a 250-foot freefall tower – something that’s often harder for students than jumping out of an actual airplane.

Three of the 250-foot towers the Airborne School recruits practice from during Tower Week. Army photo by Patrick Albright

Jump Week is the culmination of the training, where the students have to complete five jumps from an airplane at 1,250 feet.