Army Combat Jump: 7 Amazing Facts

In today’s post, my goal is to educate you about the Army Combat Jump.

It was during World War I that military strategists and leaders proposed using parachutes to drop soldiers behind enemy lines. It never came to fruition during that war but the idea was in development by several countries.

It was Italy who made the first paratroop drop in 1927. Soon after, other countries began testing and preparing combat parachute operations. Italy showed up again in 1943 when soldiers made combat jumps into North Africa with a mission to destroy U.S. aircraft. During WW2, many countries began experimenting with airborne operations.

While not used to the scale it once was, the United States Army still integrates airborne operations into their strategies. In fact, we even have an active duty Airborne Division, the 82nd Airborne. 

What is a Combat Jump?

Before I share some cool facts about the Army Combat Jump, I thought it would be beneficial to define what one is. A combat jump is when you conduct an airborne jump in combat. Combat can be defined as:

Military combat has always been between two or more opposing military forces in warfare. Military combat situations can involve multiple groups, involving guerilla groups, insurgents, domestic and/or foreign governments. A military conflict is known either as a battle or a war, depending on the size of the fighting and exactly which geographical areas in which the war/battle occurs. ~ Wikipedia

Keep in mind the combat or conflict does not need to be a declared “war” by Congress to qualify.

The Army Combat Jump: Top 7 Cool Facts

I have done some extensive research and here are 7 amazing facts on the Army combat jump.

# 1: Since Vietnam

I have taken a look at documented combat jumps since the Vietnam War. For those of you who may not think the military uses airborne combat jumps in modern military systems, I believe you will be surprised…

Grenada – 1983 – Operation Urgent Fury
  • A HALO jump to set up aircraft guidance systems that included these units: Long Range Surveillance Detachment, 75th Infantry Regiment; TACP, and 14th Air Support Operations Squadron.
  • SEAL team static line jump into water.
  • A daytime tactical personnel jump with these units: 1st and 2nd Battalions, 75th Infantry Regiment; 618th Engineer Company, 307th Engineer Battalion.
Panama – 1989 – Operation Just Cause
  • Nighttime tactical static line jump that included personnel and heavy equipment. It included these units: Task Force Red: Elements, 75th Ranger Regiment; Division Ready Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.
  • Nighttime tactical static line jump with these units: Task Force Pacific: Elements, 75th Ranger Regiment; 1st Brigade Task Force, 82nd Airborne Division: 1-504th Infantry; 1-505th Infantry; 2-504th Infantry; C/4-325th Infantry; A/3-505th Infantry; 3-73rd Armor; 82nd Military Police Company.
Iraq – 1991 – Operation Desert Storm
  • HALO jump by U.S. Army Special Forces.
Afghanistan – 2001 to 2003 – Operation Enduring Freedom
  • 1st – Units: Det, HHC, 75th Ranger Regiment; HHC, A, and C Companies, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
  • 2nd – Units: Det, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
  • 3rd – Units: HHC, A, and C Companies, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; Det, B/3-504th Infantry.
Iraq – 2003 – Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • 1st – Units: Task Force Viking / Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – North: Det, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group; HHC, 173rd Airborne Brigade; Det, 74th Infantry Platoon; 173rd Support Company, 250th Medical Detachment, D-319th Field Artillery; 501st Support Company; 2-503rd Infantry; 1-508th Infantry; 4th Air Support Operations Squadron; 86th Contingency Response Group.
  • 2nd – Units: Det, HHC, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; C Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; Det, 24th Special Tactics Squadron.
  • 3rd – Units: Det, HHC, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; A Company, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; Det, 27th Engineer Battalion; Det, 24th Special Tactics Squadron.
Afghanistan – 2004 – Enduring Freedom
  • HALO jump – Team 3, Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment, HHC, 75th Ranger Regiment.

# 2: First Combat Jump In Vietnam

It was February of 1967 and those who were there said it was an unbelievable sight. The 173d Airborne Brigade jumped behind enemy lines in Vietnam near the Cambodian border. It was called the Junction City combat jump and dropped well over 800 soldiers as well as equipment and supplies. The operation to destroy Viet Cong propaganda offices and sites was considered a huge success. Nearly 300 Viet Cong were killed.

# 3: First United States Combat Jump

It was November of 1942 during Operation Torch in North Africa. Planes flew all the way from Britain carrying over 500 soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The jump was full of errors from navigation, bad weather, and communication. Troops were scattered all over but important lessons were learned.

# 4: The Largest In History

The largest combat jump in history consisted of both British and American paratroopers. It was 1945 and Hitler and his Nazis had to be stopped.

Called Operation Varsity, on March 24th, 1945, over 16,000 paratroopers jumped in scattered formations around Wesel, Germany.

Involved was the British 6th and the United States 17th Airborne Divisions. While considered a success, over 2,500 paratroopers were killed.

# 5: The 1st Combat Drop Proposal

Lewis H. Brereton was an officer on the staff of General Billy Mitchell. Brereton proposed dropping the U.S. 1st Infantry Division on the German controlled city of Metz during World War I. Mitchell loved the idea but General Pershing put it on a shelf.

# 6: Jumping With All That Equipment

In most circumstances, the ammunition is dropped alone. But much of the other equipment must come down with each paratrooper.

Systematically, rifles, mortars, and other equipment needed for battle are strapped to the soldier. In some cases, the equipment can weigh so much, the soldier can barely walk and must be shoved out the plane door.

The rucksack hooked in front of the soldier is lowered down by the paratrooper as he/she descends so that it hits the ground first.

# 7: How To Know A Soldier Made A Combat Jump

All soldiers who completed Airborne training are awarded a Parachutist Badge. If you look closely at the badge and there is at least 1 bronze star, that soldier has made a combat jump. If that soldier has made 5 or more combat jumps, they will have a larger gold star.

Earning Your Combat Wings

If you had the distinct honor to conduct an Army Combat Jump, you earn your combat wings. This is how it works:

If a soldier completes an airborne jump into a combat zone, they are authorized to wear a combat jump device on their Parachutist Badge turning it into what is officially called a Combat Parachutist Badge. The device consists of a star or arrangements of stars, indicating the number of combat jumps (up to five) conducted by the paratrooper. ~ Wikipedia

For each additional combat jump, you will earn another bronze star on your wings.

Combat Jump Video

Here’s a neat video I found on YouTube showing you what a combat jump looks like.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, these are 7 cool facts about the Army Combat Jump. I have tremendous respect for paratroopers. They have an important role in peacetime and combat.

Are you Airborne qualified? Have you made a combat jump? If so, leave a comment below to tell me about your experience. I look forward to hearing from you.

If you’re looking for a detailed list of U.S. Army Combat Jumps, you should check out this website.

U.S. Army Combat Jumps

Other posts you may enjoy:
  1. Army Jump Master: 10 Things You Should Know
  2. The Top 20 Army Airborne Soldiers of All Time
  3. Military Free-fall (HALO) Parachutist Badge: 10 Cool Facts
  4. Fort Benning, Georgia: 20 Cool Facts
chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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