Tom Hall and his daughter Elizabeth Extejt have a unique bond. They both served in the U.S. Army as parachute riggers and now both work for U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) as riggers.
“Riggers do anything from packing the parachutes to rigging the loads, to maintaining and sewing the parachutes that the Army uses,” explains Hall. “They also jump from the aircraft to test the parachutes.”
Hall served 25 years in the Army as a parachute rigger and retired as a sergeant major. When Extejt decided to join the Army, there was no question what she wanted to do.
“If I was going to join the Army. I was going to be airborne.” Extejt said, “Growing up I saw my Dad jump out of airplanes and pack parachutes and I thought ‘that’s a pretty cool thing to do. I want to do that myself.’”
Hall should have had a clue into his daughter’s destiny when he took a photo of her at Pope Air Force Base posing at the door of an airplane.
Their shared love for jumping out of airplanes has provided the father and daughter with some special moments. While Extejt was in airborne school, Hall was on active duty.
“He got to jump my qualifying jump. He was the first jumper out, and I was the first student out of the aircraft.”
Extejt excitedly tells the story of her graduation. “When I graduated, they did a ceremony with first, second, and third generation paratroopers. I got to come out of the formation and he got to pin my wings on me in front of my whole graduating class.”
Hall doesn’t fear seeing his daughter jump from an aircraft: When she served in Afghanistan was the exception.
“I deployed to Desert Shield/Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. It’s one thing to be a deploying service member and leave the family behind. It is totally different when you are the family member left behind watching your child go off.”
After retiring, Hall started a career at YPG as a rigger for the Air Delivery branch and now works as a test officer. In Air Delivery, the Army’s equipment is tested before it’s fielded and given to the Warfighter.
“I remember using JPADS when it was in its inception in the field. Then coming here and getting to be part of the testing in the 2000s --seeing how far we have come with what we are doing is really cool.”
In the meantime, Extejt served in the Army as a rigger for nine years and left the service after having children.
“I thought my jumping days were over. I was content being a mom. I had just had my fourth baby.”
That was until her Dad saw a job opening posted by a YPG contractor for a rigger and called his daughter.
Extejt said, “I interviewed and they asked if I was still willing to jump, and I said absolutely. Jumping was the best part of being in the Army, and I missed it.”
While Hall and Extejt don’t work in the same office at the rigger facility, they get a lot of hands on projects together. Hall teaches his daughter techniques, and, of course, they jump together.
“We both jump round canopies, static lines, and double back static lines, and other test jumps,” said Hall.
Extejt chuckles that Hall gives her ‘the look’ when she calls him by his first name, but for the most part she calls him Dad.
Hall also has another daughter, currently at Fort Benning, who is a parachute rigger as well.