FORT BRAGG, N.C. - After a year-long deployment in Iraq, paratroopers finally received a chance to parachute from the sky and get some critical airborne training at the Sicily drop zone Jan. 28.
For many of the paratroopers assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division the jumps were the first they have been on in about 14 months.

Some of the paratroopers were more than happy to get back to the basics of parachuting.
"Today was a good day to jump; the weather was perfect, and I don't think it could have been better than this," said Spc. David Hayes, of North Riverside, Ill. Hayes is an infantryman assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company and has been in 3rd BCT for over a year.

"The last time I jumped was a few weeks before I deployed to Iraq, so it was nice to have today as a refresher and get back into the routine of things," said Hayes.

But, the jump was not all fun though. Before the paratroopers got set to jump, they had to go through several days of tedious training and practice before they could make the actual descent from the plane.

"My guys went through several days of training including basic airborne refreshers before jumping and today was my first jump while on assisted jumpmaster duty," said Capt. Andrew Hercik, of Wadsworth, Ohio. Hercik is the commander of HHC who took over command months earlier while in Iraq, so this was one of his first jumps with his new company.

Even with all the training there are still many dangers when parachuting. "You never know what will happen when you exit the plane, today I was lucky because there was a guy who was drifting closer and closer to me but I eventually managed to slip away," said Hayes. "It could have turned out really bad," he added.

Despite the risks, the day was seemingly an overall success.
"Just about everything went well on this jump, although we did have one injury to a paratrooper's back. Everyone hustled throughout the day and did what they were supposed to. The more we train the more we set ourselves up for success," said Hercik.

More than 2,000 3rd BCT paratroopers have jumped in the past two weeks, and by the end of next week, over 3,000 will have jumped.

Hercik said 3rd BCT's main goal right now is to reintegrate paratroopers into their training and prepare to take over the Global Response Force later in the year.