Airborne Soldiers jump for first time in 16 months
June 1, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Army News Service, June 1, 2009) - Some stood at Sicily Drop Zone with apprehension on their faces. Others couldn't contain their excitement, while most just wished 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 from a high-performance aircraft. Although this jump is done in garrison by qualified paratroopers at least every three months, however, this would be the first 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, operations chief for the XVIII special troops battalion.
More than 200 Soldiers participated and ran the gamut of ranks and experiences: from general officer to private with only six jumps to a 60-year-old paratrooper and numerous Soldiers with 50-100 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 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.
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 after 14 months in Iraq as the XVIII Abn. Corps G5 noncommissioned-officer-in-charge.
"It feels good getting back out there," he said. "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 would involve some more waiting. The unit had an airborne operation scratched two weeks ago due to high winds, and on May 28, the 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 Soldiers landed safely on the ground, with more soon to follow.
"It was a great jump," said Sgt. 1st Class Eric M. Pitts, battalion operations sergeant. "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) they landed. It was a sense of relief for the paratroopers that after 16 months, they were once again jumping out of airplanes.
(Staff Sgt. Jeremy D. Crisp serves with the XVIII Airborne Corps Public Affairs Office.)