High Altitude-Low Opening, or HALO School is all about delivering personnel, equipment, and supplies from a transport aircraft at a high altitude via free-fall parachute insertion. Some people ask, well, what is the difference between HALO and HAHO? Simple put, it just differentiates when you open your chute.
HALO jumpers free-fall for a while and pull their chutes at a lower altitude. HAHO jumpers pull their chutes almost seconds after they exit the aircraft. One main reason between choosing to deploy a chute at higher or lower altitudes lies in the mission. For example, a Special Forces jumper flying over enemy skies can’t open their chute at lower elevations where the enemy may hear, so they opt for HAHO. If you were dumping troops in more friendlier terrain, a HALO jump may work. Either way, you are jumping from about 15,000-35,000 feet above the ground which is bad ass regardless of when you deploy your chute.
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Now, I am only Airborne qualified, so please don’t crucify me for not knowing the complete ins and outs of the course. However, here is my understanding of the basic course phases:
Ground Training: Similar to Airborne School, you will spend a good amount of time on the ground learning about your equipment, procedures, flight physics, etc. Week one begins with the usual Army drill of in-processing, weigh-in, equipment issue, etc. You are assigned an instructor and a jump buddy (about your same height and weight so you fall at about the same rate). Your instructor stays with you the whole time. You learn all about the ram air parachute, emergency procedures, rigging procedures, repack procedures, etc. You do table drills to learn how to fall properly and stable, and also get into the hanging harness to practice emergency procedures (malfunctions, cutaways, entanglements, etc.). You also cover jump commands and the oxygen system.
Body Stabilization: During this phase of the course you will spend hours in a wind tunnel where you will learn how to stabilize your body in free-fall flight. This is a massive fan that blow at speeds up to 150mph…it actually lifts you and supports you in the air to simulate free-fall! You go through all the adjustments and you fine tune your body position. This may sound easy, but just Google a video of this and you will see the slightest twitch in your arm could send your body into a spiral or tumble. This is a NO-GO in HALO as you need to be able to control your body to properly deploy your chute, maneuver to other jumpers for grouping, etc.
Aircraft Procedures: Again, like Airborne School you must learn the procedures of exiting, mass exiting, life support equipment, grouping, nighttime operations, etc. This is very important so that everyone is doing the same thing and your actions do not harm other Soldiers. There is a procedure for everything…for a reason!
Jumping!: You begin by exiting at 10,000 ft with no equipment, to exiting at 25,000 ft with full equipment and oxygen. You must remain stable, pull at the designated altitude (+/- 200ft), and land within 25-m of the group leader. If the weather is good, you get to do a lot of jumps (including HAHO).
I hope that someday I will get the opportunity to attend HALO School to add to my Airborne Experience! Now, that is probably a shot in the dark as I am an Armor Officer, not SF…but, then again I thought the same thing about Airborne School!
How about you?