• Paratroopers with the XVIII Airborne Corps practice parachute-landing falls May 27, at Green Ramp on Pope Air Force Base, N.C.  For many of the Corps' Soldiers, the following day's airborne operation was their first in nearly 16 months. The length in time between jumps is due to the Corps' deployment to Baghdad as the Multi-National Corps - Iraq from January 2008 to April 2009.

    Sky Dragons jump for first time in 16 months

    Paratroopers with the XVIII Airborne Corps practice parachute-landing falls May 27, at Green Ramp on Pope Air Force Base, N.C. For many of the Corps' Soldiers, the following day's airborne operation was their first in nearly 16 months. The length in...

  • A paratrooper with the XVIII Airborne Corps sails through the air, May 28, on the way to a safe landing after jumping from an aircraft for the first time in nearly 16 months. The Corps returned in March and April from a 14-month deployment to Iraq and is now beginning to ramp up operations to include maintaining its airborne proficiency.

    Sky Dragons jump for first time in 16 months

    A paratrooper with the XVIII Airborne Corps sails through the air, May 28, on the way to a safe landing after jumping from an aircraft for the first time in nearly 16 months. The Corps returned in March and April from a 14-month deployment to Iraq and...

  • Paratroopers with the XVIII Airborne Corps exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft May 28 at Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C. More than 200 Soldiers participated in the two-day airborne operation. For many, it was their first jump since returning from a 14-month deployment to Iraq.

    Sky Dragons jump for first time in 16 months

    Paratroopers with the XVIII Airborne Corps exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft May 28 at Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C. More than 200 Soldiers participated in the two-day airborne operation. For many, it was their first jump since returning from a...

  • Maj. Mark Childress, with the XVIII Airborne Corps G5, reads over an airborne standard operating procedure manual while awaiting an airborne operation, May 28, at Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C. Childress, a safety on the jump, helped put paratroopers out the door of a C-130 Hercules aircraft that day. Over a two-day period more than 200 paratroopers with the XVIII Airborne Corps took part in airborne operations for the first time in nearly 16 months.

    Sky Dragons jump for first time in 16 months

    Maj. Mark Childress, with the XVIII Airborne Corps G5, reads over an airborne standard operating procedure manual while awaiting an airborne operation, May 28, at Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C. Childress, a safety on the jump, helped put...

  • Dawn begins to break outside the XVIII Airborne Corps Special Troops Battalion headquarters, May 28, at Fort Bragg, N.C.  Roughly 120 Corps paratroopers were up ahead of the sun for final manifest call before taking part, for some, in their first airborne operation since returning from Iraq in March and April.

    Sky Dragons jump for first time in 16 months

    Dawn begins to break outside the XVIII Airborne Corps Special Troops Battalion headquarters, May 28, at Fort Bragg, N.C. Roughly 120 Corps paratroopers were up ahead of the sun for final manifest call before taking part, for some, in their first...

  • Sgt. 1st Class Brian E. Knight, telecommunications chief, XVIII Airborne Corps G6, looks over an airborne manifest in the pre-dawn hours, May 28, outside the Corps' Special Troops Battalion Headquarters on Fort Bragg, N.C. Knight, from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is a 74-jump veteran and was a primary jumpmaster for airborne operations the Corps conducted over a two-day period. It was the first airborne operation for many of the Corps' paratroopers since returning from Iraq in March and April.

    Sky Dragons jump for first time in 16 months

    Sgt. 1st Class Brian E. Knight, telecommunications chief, XVIII Airborne Corps G6, looks over an airborne manifest in the pre-dawn hours, May 28, outside the Corps' Special Troops Battalion Headquarters on Fort Bragg, N.C. Knight, from Rancho...

  • Paratroopers with the XVIII Airborne Corps exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft, May 28, at Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C.  More than 200 Soldiers participated in the two-day airborne operation. For many, it was their first jump since returning from a 14-month deployment to Iraq.

    Sky Dragons jump for first time in 16 months

    Paratroopers with the XVIII Airborne Corps exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft, May 28, at Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C. More than 200 Soldiers participated in the two-day airborne operation. For many, it was their first jump since returning from a...

  • An XVIII Airborne Corps unit patch is seen on a Corps' paratrooper at Green Ramp on Pope Air Force Base, N.C., May 27. The Corps conducted pre-jump activities at Green Ramp before heading out on an airborne operation the following day. For most it was their first jump in nearly 16 months.

    Sky Dragons jump for first time in 16 months

    An XVIII Airborne Corps unit patch is seen on a Corps' paratrooper at Green Ramp on Pope Air Force Base, N.C., May 27. The Corps conducted pre-jump activities at Green Ramp before heading out on an airborne operation the following day. For most it was...

  • Sgt. 1st Class Frank Rawls with Company C, XVIII Airborne Corps Special Troops Battalion, hangs out the door of a mock C-130 Hercules Aircraft, May 27, as part of pre-jump activities at Green Ramp, Pope Air Force Base, N.C. The Corps conducted pre-jump activities at Green Ramp before heading out on an airborne operation the following day.

    Sky Dragons jump for first time in 16 months

    Sgt. 1st Class Frank Rawls with Company C, XVIII Airborne Corps Special Troops Battalion, hangs out the door of a mock C-130 Hercules Aircraft, May 27, as part of pre-jump activities at Green Ramp, Pope Air Force Base, N.C. The Corps conducted pre-jump...

  • A C-130 Hercules aircraft takes off from Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg, N.C., May 28. On board are roughly 60 paratroopers from the XVIII Airborne Corps who are about to take part in an airborne operation for the first time in nearly 16 months.

    Sky Dragons jump for first time in 16 months

    A C-130 Hercules aircraft takes off from Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg, N.C., May 28. On board are roughly 60 paratroopers from the XVIII Airborne Corps who are about to take part in an airborne operation for the first time in nearly 16 months.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Some stood at Sicily Drop Zone with apprehension on their faces. Others couldn't contain their excitement, while most were just wishing the plane would get to the landing zone so they could load up and jump.

There was a variety of emotions flowing from Soldiers with the XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters and Special Troops Battalion May 28 and 29; as on these two days the paratroopers would make a long-awaited jump. Something done in garrison by qualified paratroopers at least every three months, however, this would be the first jump in nearly 16 months for most of the Corps' personnel.

After returning from a 14-month Iraq deployment in April, the troopers needed to exit an aircraft in order to get back to proficiency, manage paid parachutist positions and maintain Corps' standards, explained Maj. Jack W. Sander, a New Orleans native and operations chief for the XVIII Airborne Corps Special Troops Battalion.

Doing all the above were a myriad of paratroopers. More than 200 Soldiers in the two days of jumping ran the gamut of ranks and experiences: from general officers to the private with only six jumps, to a 60-year-old paratrooper and numerous Soldiers with between 50 and 100 jumps. They were all there with the goals of landing safely and getting back something that had been missing in Iraq.

"It's like a welcome home for all the Corps' Soldiers just getting back from the deployment," said Capt. William W. Wood, who acted as the Task Force Bragg Special Troops Battalion logistics officer-in-charge while the Corps was deployed.

And there was no place like home for one paratrooper taking part in his 87th jump. After 14 months in Iraq as the XVIII Airborne Corps G5 noncommissioned-officer-in-charge, Sgt. 1st Class Darald L. Jones said jumping out of a "perfectly good aircraft" was one of the many things he missed about Fort Bragg.

"It feels good getting back out there," said Jones, a Wilmington, N.C., native. "The nerves are always there, but nothing beats the rush of jumping and I'm glad to be doing it once again."

But actually doing what Jones and his fellow Soldiers couldn't wait to do for more than a year would involve some more waiting. The unit had an airborne operation scratched two weeks ago due to high winds. On May 28, the Corps' Soldiers would wait some more at Sicily until their aircraft arrived after dropping another unit in a previous operation.

When their ride finally landed amidst a cloud of dust, however, the thoughts of a 'scratched' operation fled as relieved troopers began loading the aircraft. Minutes later nearly 60 Corps' Soldiers landed safely on the ground, with more soon to follow.

"It was a great jump," said Sgt. 1st Class Eric M. Pitts, operations sergeant, Headquarters Support Company, XVIII Airborne Corps Special Troops Battalion. "It's like riding a bike - it doesn't take long to get back into the swing of things."

Following the jumps were laughs, grunts of pain, Soldiers dusting each other off and stories brewing about how well, or not so well each other landed; a different set of emotions altogether than before the operation. It was a sense of relief for the paratroopers that after 16 months, they were once again jumping out of airplanes.

Page last updated Fri May 29th, 2009 at 15:58