By Staff Sgt. William ReinierJune 6, 2017
FORT CARSON, Colo. - When Daniel and Angel Durkee first met in a high school chemistry class in Canyon Lake, Calif., the reaction was immediate. They began dating, but their bond would be tested when Daniel -- who was a year older than Angel -- graduated, joined the Army, and was assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C.
Through these life changes, they stayed together, and Angel graduated the next year and also joined the Army. The two were reunited at Fort Bragg and married in 2016.
Now, Sgt. Daniel Durkee is a mechanic assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, Colo., while Sgt. Angel Durkee is an intelligence analyst also assigned to 10th Group -- a solution made possible through the Married Army Couples Program.
Their joint adventure doesn't stop there. Last month, the two were among 53 Soldiers assigned to various Special Operations units across Fort Carson for a static-line Jumpmaster course hosted by 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).
For the Durkees, the course provided something more than just the title of "Jumpmaster."
Although they work in the same unit, they rarely interact during the day. But, being in the same Jumpmaster course was a unique treat for them.
"It's probably been some of the best couple of weeks I've had in the Army, because I get to see him every day," Angel said.
Daniel Durkee said that pulling Jumpmaster duty together was something he and Angel had talked about during the course. On the morning of their final practical work in the aircraft (PWAC) exam, they found out that they would get the opportunity to be evaluated for the Jumpmaster role.
For their final exam, students were required to execute Jumpmaster actions inside an aircraft while flying 2,000 ft. above Barbara Drop Zone at Fort Carson. While inside of a C-130 aircraft, Jumpmaster teams would give commands simultaneously to all of the jumpers so everyone was ready.
During PWAC, the Durkees found out that they would be evaluated together as one of those Jumpmaster teams.
"It definitely settled my nerves," Daniel said. "It was nice to be able to look across and see a familiar face. It gave me a lot more confidence."
Together, Angel and Daniel called commands to their jumpers, inspected the paratroop door of the C-130, and leaned out of the aircraft to look for any potential dangers in the air or on the ground. Once over the drop zone, they issued their final jump command.
Within seconds of each other, both had earned the title of "Jumpmaster."
"It was cool," Daniel said. "Once we both found out we were in the class it was our goal to both pass."
The Durkees' new goal is to perform duties together as a Jumpmaster team. Daniel said they've talked about it a lot since they found out they were both graduating.
"It would just be nice to get to do that with him," Angel agreed.
One of the course graduates, Lt. Col. John Gianelloni, commander of 3rd Battalion, 10th SFG(A), says that what makes this jump course different from those offered at Fort Benning, Ga. or Fort Bragg, N.C., is the emphasis placed on the special requirements that SOF faces for airborne operations.
"There's a bigger focus on non-standard aircraft, non-standard combat equipment loads, SOF-specific drop zone operations, and airborne operations at [a higher] altitude," he explained.
The Special Forces officer in charge (OIC) of the course says that becoming a Jumpmaster benefits both 10th Group and the individual Soldier.
"As a SOF unit, we must continue to grow Jumpmasters from within," the course OIC said. "It prepares the unit for real world airborne infiltrations, and training jumps. It also pushes our NCOs and officers into new and challenging leadership roles as Jumpmasters."
Gianelloni added that having Group support personnel with the ability to perform duties is key.
"It won't always be the operators who are expected to perform duties as a Jumpmaster," he said. "That's why we need to have competent, experienced Jumpmasters across the entire unit."
As support personnel in the Group, the Durkees understand what it takes to help the unit run efficiently. Now, they are ready and able to serve as a Jumpmaster team -- together.