By Sgt. Chris Harper, 3rd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. PAONovember 29, 2011
FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Paratroopers of Fort Bragg are intimately familiar with Green Ramp. The personnel hanger located at Pope Field is where jumpers stage prior to boarding the Air Force aircraft responsible for carrying them on one-way trips.
Of the many important things done in the staging step of assembling paratroopers for a jump, the donning of parachutes and the inspecting of jumpers by jumpmasters is one of the most critical and time consuming.
Nowhere is this more important than to the paratroopers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and the nation's global response force. Tasked with being able to respond globally with little notice and have highly-trained professional paratroopers on the ground as quickly and efficiently as possible, the 3rd BCT rehearsed an in-flight rigging scenario, Nov 22-23.
"The purpose of doing in-flight rigging is to lesson the strain on jumpers, especially for long intercontinental flights," said Staff Sgt. Duane Cauley, the noncommissioned officer in charge of air operations at 3rd BCT. "The purpose of this exercise is to get the jumpmasters familiar with the process, ease some of the fears, and instill confidence in them."
Cauley went on to say it has been years since 3rd BCT had done an in-flight rigging exercise. Nobody in the brigade air operations shop was certain exactly how long it had been, but made clear the in-flight rigging is a rare exercise.
Carrying only their weapons, rucksacks and Army combat helmets, paratroopers boarded a pair of Air Force C-17 Globemasters more than three hours before their intended jump time. Preloaded were pallets of parachutes and reserves intended to be distributed and put on once aloft.
Just 20 minutes after take-off, paratroopers began filing from their seats toward the rear ramp of the aircraft where they were issued their parachutes and reserves. After passing out the chutes paratroopers were instructed to begin assisting one another put them on.
In the tight confines of the aircraft belly, this step appeared hurried, hectic, and a bit chaotic, however, due to the addition of eight jumpmasters placed among the jumpers the choreography proved well rehearsed and began to look methodical and systematic as jumpers were outfitted and inspected by the extra jumpmasters.
With time to spare all of the paratroopers were rigged and properly inspected.
Wind speed on the ground had picked up to a sustained speed of more than 15 mph preventing jumpers from actually getting to jump, turning what is typically a one-way ride from the Air Force into a roundtrip back to Pope.
"Despite not getting to jump, which is always disappointing, ultimately the mission was accomplished," said Lt. Col. David Gardner, commander of 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT.
"I could easily see a situation where we may be called into action and rigging on the ground isn't practical," said Staff Sgt. Clifton Ragland, a jumpmaster with 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd BCT. "I'm glad I got to be on this exercise, this way I can see it done and have some experience when the time comes."
That time is coming.
According to Cauley, 3rd BCT plans on incorporating an in-flight rigging event into the planned Joint Operational Access Exercise slated for February 2012.