Aside from combat, I am most often asked about my experiences as a paratrooper. To become Airborne qualified (jump wings) you must first attend, and pass Airborne school at Fort Benning, GA. I attended this course directly after Basic/AIT training. However, there were many people in my class that had been in the military for a number of years and received this training as a re-enlistment bonus, or because they needed it as a prerequisite to attend other training.

Airborne is a three-week course that is broken into three sections: ground week, tower week, and jump week. Ground week consisted of PT, a PT test, learning the PLF (parachute land fall), understanding operations inside a mock aircraft, and the 30ft tower (practicing how to exit the aircraft). Tower week continues the things learned in ground week, with the addition of: mass exit, harness training (you are suspended in a harness to simulate what it will feel like while airborne), and finally the 250ft tower. Due to the conditions during my course, the 250ft tower was canceled (unfortunate because I think that would have better prepared me for what landing was like).

Finally jump week. During this week we had to complete 5 jumps: 3 hollywood (just parachute and reserve), and 2 combat equipment jumps (gear included weapons case with dummy weapon, ruck which had to weight 35lbs, parachute, and reserve). The gear they had us jump with at school only weighed a fraction of the weight I was required to jump with at 2nd Ranger Battalion. It should be noted that one of the combat equipment jumps needed to be conducted at night.

Depending on your job at my unit (2/75 75th RGR RGT) your loadout would be different. I was in weapons squad so I had the pleasure of jumping all the heavy, irregularly shaped gear. Why does this matter? Well if you aren’t symmetrical than you have a tendency to excessively spin once you exit the aircraft. Regardless of your job you would always jump with: parachute, reserve, rucksack (sometimes the ruck itself hooked onto the jump harness, and other times we used a jump sack that wrapped around the ruck), weapons case (this varies depending on your weapon. Obviously an M4 is significantly different from jumping a Carl Gustav). There were times I had to be helped onto the aircraft because I was unable to walk on my own.