By Sgt. A.M. LaVeyMay 30, 2014
NIJMEGEN, Netherlands (May 30, 2014) -- Paratroopers are intimately familiar with the timeline of an airborne operation: arrive at the staging area, strap a parachute to your back, attach your rucksack and equipment between your legs, receive a jumpmaster inspection, wait for ages, load the aircraft, fly and finally jump.
Upon arrival at Aviano Air Base, Italy, for their most recent jump on May 20, a group of first sergeants, command sergeants major, company commanders, battalion commanders, and the brigade commander of the Vicenza-based 173rd Airborne Brigade "Sky Soldiers," with rucksacks on their backs, grabbed their parachutes in their hands and marched straight onto the plane.
The paratroopers were bound for the Netherlands, where the jump would serve as the start of a several day staff ride to gain lessons from Operation Market Garden, an allied airborne operation in World War II.
After takeoff, two hours from Ginkelse Heide Drop Zone, the paratroopers began the process of the in-flight rigging of their parachutes and combat equipment, donning their equipment inside the aircraft.
"It gives us a greater flexibility and the ability to deploy further distances without having to wear the parachute and combat equipment the entire time," said Lt. Col. Michael Ripley, commander, 173rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, and the mission's primary jumpmaster. "Sitting in the harness for long amounts of time can adversely affect the mission."
Time that can be used for training and preparation on the ground, prior to boarding aircraft and also en route to the destination.
"Being un-rigged, we have the ability to continue the planning process," said Ripley. "We have an 18-hour response mission and with our modern communication equipment we can refine that plan in the air."
Getting ready for the jump was needed not only for the jumpmaster team, but also for the jumpers.
"It's really not hard, as long as you have a good plan and rehearse it," said Command Sgt. Maj. Richard R. Clark, the brigade's senior enlisted advisor. "In fact, it makes our job a little bit easier and it's a good use of our time."
Like any airborne operation, there was a good amount of planning that went into it, but for an in-flight rigging jump, there are additional considerations.
"You have to consider the time available, the time of the flight, numbers of jumpers and qualified jumpmasters, but also the configuration of the aircraft," said Ripley.
Getting rigged up in the aircraft also allows the paratroopers to begin movement to the objective faster.
"Being forwardly-positioned in Europe, we can be first responders, because we are 12 hours closer than the paratroopers at Fort Bragg, [N.C.]" said Ripley. "We'll save time by doing two things at a time: flying there and rigging up. We can be en route to the crisis quicker than any other conventional force."
According to another paratrooper, methods like this send a message.
"The ability to in-flight rig showcases the brigade's abilities," said Chief Warrant 3 Bobby Sattazahn, part of the brigade air operations section. "It's what we do. It's all part of being in an airborne unit."
The 173rd Airborne Brigade is the Army Contingency Response Force in Europe, and is capable of projecting forces to conduct the full of range of military operations across the United States European, Central and Africa Commands areas of responsibility.
"This is what we provide to our nation," said Clark. "When the world looks at the 173rd Airborne Brigade, they know that we can be anywhere in the world in 18 hours, perform a parachute assault and get to the objective in support of our strategic interests."