173rd Soldiers attending Airborne School
January 16, 2009
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Soldiers, 300 of them, from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, stationed in Schweinfurt and Bamberg, Germany, and Vicenza, Italy, arrived here after taking a 10-hour trans-Atlantic flight to attend Airborne School.
"Every Soldier you see around the U.S. Army with parachute wings came to Airborne School at Fort Benning," said 1st Sgt. Troy Babin, the 173rd Airborne Bde. Combat Team liaison. "This is the birthplace of the paratrooper. This is where generations and generations of paratroopers have trained - it's tradition."
There are closer airborne schools to the 173rd, including the German and Italian airborne schools, but those schools can't hold the capacity of students Fort Benning can handle, Babin said.
After the Army added units to the former 173rd Brigade in 2006, it was re-flagged as the 173rd Brigade Combat Team. A year after it was re-flagged, the brigade deployed to Afghanistan for a 15-month tour. But when the brigade redeployed, not all Soldiers were airborne qualified, Babin said. That's why the 173rd is at Fort Benning.
The Soldiers will go through the same tasks as an airborne class at Fort Benning except instead of three five-day sessions with rest in between, the Soldiers will go through 11 days of training without rest.
In the first segment, the Soldiers jumped from a mock C-130 door and from the 34-foot tower. They had to jump six times off the 34-foot tower.
In the second segment, the Soldiers will learn how to land properly and what to do if something goes wrong in the sky. Soldiers have to complete one successful jump from the 250-foot tower. For those who pass, the last segment includes five jumps from a C-130 aircraft including a night jump and jumps with and without combat gear. If the Soldiers successfully pass, they earn their wings.
The class for the brigade is more intense than a regular class, said instructor Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Scott, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
"Soldiers have less time to recover from injuries, bruises and wear and tear on their ligaments," Scott said. "Due to jet lag, the weather difference and elevation difference, it's a lot to process mentally and physically."
Sgt. Joshua Frederich was excited about attending Airborne School.
"I was here three years ago for basic training. I would see students jumping off the towers and would always think that's motivation, that's what I want to do some day," Frederich said. "I'm lucky to get a chance to do this.
"I was in absolute terror; I didn't look down," Frederich said about his first jump from the 34-foot tower. "I didn't dare look down. I yelled my roster number and name and went down."
Sgt. Angel Thurston said she hesitated to zip down the 34-foot tower.
"I'm afraid of heights," she said. "I looked down, and I think that's why I hesitated."
"I've learned you can do anything you want. It's mental. As long as you get over that, and don't get psyched out, you'll be fine," she said.
Those who pass all three segments of the class will graduate Wednesday.