FORT HOOD — The jump is over in a matter of seconds, but the preparation can take all day. Sometimes, even after all the hard work, the jump never happens.
Soldiers of Charlie Company, 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Fort Hood’s only airborne unit, spent Tuesday preparing for a night jump and follow-on mission, that — thanks to the weather — instead became a chance to practice putting on gear while in the air on a C-130. No jump and no follow-on mission upon hitting the ground.
Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Ford said even without jumping, training on what is known as “in-flight rigging,” is still important and valuable for the company.
“In a real mission, you have 80 to 120 pounds of gear,” said the primary jumpmaster for the day’s training. Most of the weight of the gear, which includes a ruck sack, weapon and parachute, hangs on D-rings near a soldier’s hips. It can be very uncomfortable, and soldiers need to be able to conduct operations on the ground, despite having spent hours in flight.
Instead of spending the entire trip strapped to an aircraft with all that gear, soldiers do in-flight rigging and preparation to jump with the help of a buddy; then a jumpmaster conducts the primary inspection to ensure each soldier can jump safely to the ground.
“You’re literally on top of each other and at night, all you have is red light to work off of,” said Capt. Jonathan Pechon, the squadron’s aircraft coordinator.
The company conducts monthly jumps to keep soldiers’ muscle memory sharp, he said.
“Jumping out of an airplane is not like riding a bike,” Pechon said.
Sgt. Adam Quick, of Charlie Company, said the training is a valuable experience.
“We’ve been getting new guys ... and some haven’t jumped since airborne school. They’ve jumped in a school environment, but not in a unit,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but at the end of the day, it’s fun when you finally jump out of the plane.”
Tuesday’s training will better prepare the company for February’s jump, in which soldiers will fly to Fort Bragg, N.C., conduct in-flight rigging and jump.