Grafenwoehr's drop zone giving Soldiers diverse airborne experience
July 6, 2011
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany, July 7, 2011 -- She hooks the static line onto the cable. The safety gives it a sharp tug to ensure it is secure. Hours of preparation have led to this moment. Her heart is thumping against her chest. The doors open and the sound of the plane’s engine and air passing over the wings roars inside the C-130 Hercules.
For members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, this exercise is part of required training to remain qualified as Airborne Soldiers. Grafenwoehr’s Bunker Drop Zone, or BDZ, owned by the Joint Multinational Training Command, provides one of the only drop zones which allows for heavy equipment and personnel to be dropped in Europe.
Here, Soldiers are able to incorporate straight training jumps into multiphase maneuvers in order to effectively prepare troops for real-time operations.
“Inboard personnel stand up,” yells the Jumpmaster.
The Soldiers preparing to jump lineup, facing the door.
“Hook up,” the jumpmaster hollers as everyone checks their lines. He continues calling out the jump commands. When all checks are complete, the Jumpmaster calls, “sound off for equipment check.”
After confirming that all the paratroopers are ready, the first Soldier responds with “All okay Jumpmaster!”
Directly before the green light, the first jumper leans into the open door. The excitement in the aircraft is building. People are yelling and cheering, encouraging each other as they prepare to exit. Soldiers rely on each other and the parachutes they have been trained to use.
The light turns green and the first Soldier is out the door.
“It all comes together,” said Sgt. Rachel L. Lyons, the human resources noncommissioned officer in charge for 173rd ABCT Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, Airborne Brigade, one of the 10 women in her battalion who are airborne qualified.
For Lyons, this jump was just one way that she gets to add excitement to her chosen career.
“You remember all your training and the minute you are out, the minute you jump out, it kind of feels like a turbo shot,” said Lyons. “Like being shot out of a cannon. Then your shoot opens and it is just gorgeous. The sky and the ground below you, everything is just really nice to look at, and it’s a great view. Then you start concentrating on what to do, which cords to pull.”
For 2nd Lt. Jesselyn Oledan, the human resources officer for the 173rd ABCT, this jump had special meaning. It was her first jump with the unit, and the first jump since she completed Airborne School in April.
The Washington native is following a tradition of airborne Soldiers. Her father was Jumpmaster for the 82nd Airborne Division, and her older brother is also a Jumpmaster. The officer laughs as she sits with her comrades. She too would like the distinction of Jumpmaster.
“I’m a little nervous,” said Oledan. “But the people I am around are making it more comfortable, and just the stories that they are telling, make it a little easier.”
While she knew some of the demand that the designation of “Airborne Soldier” carried, she wasn’t quite ready for all the challenges.
Both women realize that with the 173rd ABCT a deployment is never far away. The Grafenwoehr Training Area, having one of the only drop zones in Europe, grants the 173rd ABCT, and other units, access to training not readily available elsewhere or at their home station.
Oledan seems unfazed by the possibility of deployment to a combat zone. Following in the footsteps of the men and women who have come before her, she feels as though this is what she was meant to do.
“I want to deploy. I want to be able to give my life the way they gave theirs and to help out my country,” said Oledan.