'Arctic Spartans' jump into Big Lake
August 7, 2014
BIG LAKE, Alaska (Aug. 7, 2014) -- Paratroopers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, took advantage of the pleasant Alaskan summer by carrying out a water-landing airborne operation here, yesterday.
The day-long exercise, jointly assisted by the Alaska National Guard's 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment, used a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to airlift 200 paratroopers, six at a time, over Big Lake for the jump.
The Spartan Brigade used the training event to further enhance and broaden its range of airborne capabilities.
The water jump was a first for many paratroopers, and the operation was the first of its kind for the unit, since 2011.
"I'm pretty excited! This is actually my first UH-60 jump, and first water jump," said 1st Lt. Mekko Gillen, an ordnance officer and jump master with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, shortly before her jump.
"I think it will help me for future airborne operations. I'm hoping to gain a lot of knowledge from this experience," Gillen said.
The excitement of the upcoming jump resonated throughout the formation.
Sgt. Joseph Beasley, an allied trade specialist, also with Fox Co., 2-377 Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, said, "I've jumped from Black Hawks before. They're pretty amazing, and hitting that water should be pretty good, too."
Safety is a key component in all airborne operations. The Spartan Brigade trains continuously to maintain proficiency, so confidence was high among the troops.
"I'm confident in all of these jumpers and jump masters," said Beasley.
He said the training they have done in preparation for the jump has made him even more confident.
"It was awesome!" said Pfc. Tyler Steane, a healthcare specialist with Blackfoot Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment. "It was definitely a lot more peaceful, [than an airplane jump]; quieter coming out, you can actually communicate with your other jumpers. We were talking about moving our equipment properly, a quick question here and there, and then, 'Hey, there's the water!'"
The water temperature was mild, and not as cold as many paratroopers had anticipated.
"It was warmer than I expected," said Steane. "The air coming in from the helicopter was cold, so when I hit the water, it was a lot warmer. It was nice, the floatation device worked well too."
The floatation device is employed about 200 feet above the surface, and it tucks efficiently under the arms for easy maneuverability.
"I hit the water and was under for a fraction of a second, and just came back up," said Steane. "I looked up to make sure my canopy was going over my head. There were no issues. It was a perfect jump!"
Steane said the training leading up to the water jump included many safety standards.
Swimming pool training included various floatation drills, treading water, and techniques on how to prop up the canopy to create an air pocket in the event it covers the paratrooper while in the water, along with training on how to swim out from under it.
"Everything was done with extreme safety standards," Steane said.
Training, safety, and fun were all mixed together during the event which was shared by community members of Big Lake and Spartan families as they watched paratroopers leap out of the helicopter, float down, and splash into Big Lake.