FORT BRAGG, N.C. (March 30, 2012) -- Senior leaders from the XVIII Airborne Corps jumped the T-11 advanced tactical parachute system over Normandy Drop Zone, here, March 22.

Prior to the airborne operation, all jumpers, whether they had jumped the parachute before or not, participated in new equipment training at the U.S. Army's Advanced Airborne School, also located at Fort Bragg, to become familiar with the parachute system and its components.

"The T-11 parachute is the first revolutionary change in tactical parachutes in more than 51 years," said Lt. Col. John Ring, director of operations, XVIII Abn. Corps. "It's the first static line parachute where you actually experience freefall for a period of time. [With] every other static line parachute that we jump, you are tied to the airplane all the way until the parachute is completely deployed."

The T-11 parachute system has not been jumped at Fort Bragg by conventional forces since June 2011, though paratrooper-trainees at Fort Benning, Ga., have been using the newer parachute.

"We've been jumping this parachute through the entire course for more than two years now. All of our Soldiers coming out of parachute training are now trained in both the older T-10 parachute, as well as newer T-11," said Ring, who served as the commander of the U.S. Army's Airborne School before his arrival at the corps.

"The T-11 advanced tactical parachute system is the way forward," said Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. "It is a reliable parachute that has gone through years of testing and is one of the main chutes for special operations forces."

When it was decided that the newer system was going to be used at Fort Bragg once again, the senior leaders opted to jump with the parachute before the rest of Fort Bragg's paratroopers resumed using the T-11 for airborne operations.

"It is important for the leadership to jump this parachute first," said Helmick. "We know that this is a safe parachute. Most of us have jumped this parachute before. As leaders, we are supposed to lead the way, and as such, we have been training to ensure that we transition our parachuting capabilities in a very deliberate manner."

All jumpers must be certified to jump the T-11 before they are allowed to jump with it and jumpmaster-trained paratroopers must attend a week-long, T-11-specific jumpmaster course before they are T-11 certified.

Prior to this jump, not only did the paratroopers and jumpmasters receive training, but the parachute riggers and their leadership also received specialized training for the T-11.

"There has been a lot of preparation for this jump," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kelvin Thompson, senior airdrop systems technician, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, XVIII Abn. Corps. "Riggers have been training and packing this system since February."

The course for parachute packers is seven days, while the course for rigger leadership is eight days.

"(The XVIII Airborne Corps) leadership is showing these riggers, the ones who are packing their chutes, that the leadership has ultimate confidence in their abilities, as well as the equipment itself and by jumping this system first, it cements that confidence," said Thompson.

The senior corps leader said he has full trust in the equipment and the riggers who pack Fort Bragg's parachutes.

"There is no room for error in the parachute rigger community and I am confident that each of them live by their motto: 'I will be sure always,'" said Helmick.

The major differences between the T-10 and the T-11 is that the T-11 allows more weight to be carried by the paratrooper and is able to handle a load capacity of more than 400 pounds to accommodate today's paratrooper and their equipment load.

The T-11 also slows the rate of descent from 22 feet per second to 19.1 feet, which greatly reduces the chance of jump-related injuries. Also, the new parachute is cruciform in shape, as opposed to a circle, with a larger surface area and diameter.