Maj. Derick Taylor is just a few months short of 23 years in the military. His Army career has taken him many places and provided him with a wealth of experience, yet it started in the most unlikely places…in the United States Marine Corps. Shortly after his enlistment in the Corps, he earned an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship to attend Georgia Military College, then the University of Florida, where he ultimately commissioned as a U.S Army Infantry officer.
His unique path has taken him across all three Army components, starting with the United States Army Reserves as a Military Policeman, then the Army National Guard as an Infantry, Adjutants General, and Special Forces Officer. Following transition to the Regular Army, where he continues his Special Forces Career.
His diverse experiences in the military prepared him for his current assignment. "Having served across the components and in Joint Commands, I am able to speak the language of each, which is slightly different, even though we all are conducting the same Freefall activities; I am able to use all of these experiences, as well as my former civilian career in the Skydiving community to this job," he said.
Taylor jumped into the role of commander of the Military Free Fall (MFF) School based at Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) just two short months ago. The MFF School is one of the largest advanced training programs in the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, and is comprised of students and instructors from each branch of the military, except the Coast Guard.
Taylor has been in special operations since 2003, with his first assignment in Tampa, Florida where he served as a Theatre Special Operations Command staff officer and deployed with a Special Operations Detachment, "I had the unique opportunity to support a mission in North Africa and, after that, I knew this was for me."
In 2007, he entered into the Special Forces Assessment and Selection course. From there his career took him around the world, including Jordan, Kenya, Afghanistan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, The Baltics, Turkey, Djibouti, South, Korea, and all over Western Europe. In the states he's served at Fort Benning, Georgia, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which was his previous duty station while assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command. The position at YPG gives Taylor stability.
"Over the last decade I have been all over the world, meeting interesting people and doing interesting things, and I am thankful for it. But I am certainly happy, for two years or more, to be here in Yuma commanding the Free Fall School."
While leading the school Taylor has oversight of four programs of instruction. The MFF basic parachutist course, the largest course of the four, which trains almost 900 basic parachutists from all branches of the military each year. The MFF jumpmaster's course, the second largest course, trains about 300 students each year. There is an MFF instructor course, which is only for Soldiers assigned to the school. The fourth program is the Advanced Tactical Infiltration Course (ATIC).
"ATIC is our smallest course, but by far, our most advanced training," explained Taylor. "This is the combat-focused, mission- ready, free fall parachutist course where they are jumping into unmarked and rough terrain, with very large equipment loadouts, and doing it at night; it's about as challenging as it can be outside of a combat jump."