Military Free-fall (HALO) Parachutist Badge: 10 Cool Facts

Today, we’re going to take a few minutes and discuss the military HALO badge.

Have you ever watched an individual jump out of an airplane and fall for what seems like miles before opening their parachute and drifting safely to the ground?

For many of us, we call these people crazy or nuts. The ones we watch in demonstrations are normally civilians, but the military also uses this technique too. They call it HALO, and the primary difference is, the amount of gear the Soldier wears compared to their civilian counterparts.

HALO is used to give our airborne soldiers an edge. If they open their parachutes immediately, they can be detected and either shot or captured. For combat purposes, they need to have the ability to perform free-fall jumps, or HALO jumps.

In today’s post, we are going to provide you with 10 cool facts about the military HALO badge.

When Was It Created and Approved?

1: Date of Badge Approval: I really have no idea when the HALO method was actually first put into use by the military. Colonel John Stapp was testing the possibilities in the 1940’s and 50’s, and it is believed that some airborne “daredevils” used it as early as 1960, but the Military Free-fall Badge wasn’t approved until 1994, and that was only for Soldiers who were attached to Army Special Operations. In 1997, the badge was approved for all who were willing to perform the free-fall jump.

Military HALO Badge Design

2: The Dagger: The dagger in the middle of the badge represents an infiltration weapon used by Army Rangers and Special Forces during World War II. It is a Fairbairn-Sykes dagger.

3: The Tab and the Wings: This badge is an airborne badge, so naturally the wings represent airborne flight. The tab is a representation of the tabs that any Special Ops Soldiers wore during World War II.

4: The Parachute: When the first free-fall Soldiers opened their parachutes, a square chute opened. This parachute was an MT1-X and it was the primary parachute used by all free-fall Soldiers. The MT1-X is depicted on the Military Free-fall Parachutist Badge.

Military HALO Badge Requirements

5: Basic Military Free-fall Parachutist Badge Requirements: To receive the basic badge, it can be earned in two different ways. A Soldier can just perform a free-fall combat jump and be awarded the badge. Keep in mind that I said a combat jump. This means the Soldier is carrying all the equipment that is mandatory. The other way a Soldier can earn this badge is by completing a course in military free-fall that is approved by the United States Army Special Warfare Center and School named after President John F. Kennedy.

6: Jump-master Requirements: When you see a Soldier wearing the Military Free-fall Parachutist Badge and it has a star with a wreath around it at the very top, this means that soldier is a Jump-master. The Jump-master must complete all the requirements for the basic badge and then must complete an approved Jump-master program. The Jump-master is a leader when a group is combat jumping.

Free-Fall Jumping Dangers

7: Not Getting “The Bends”: Many people associate the term “the bends” to divers who go deep within ocean waters. If they come to the surface too quickly, they can attain high amounts of nitrogen in their bloodstream which can cause terrible sickness, or even death. The same situation can come with free-fall jumpers. A quick fall to the earth can also raise nitrogen levels. In many cases, these jumpers are starting from a very high altitude, so before they jump (about 30 minutes), the Soldier breathes pure oxygen from a tank which “flushes” the nitrogen from their bloodstream. The Soldier also carries a small bottle of oxygen with them on the jump.

8: Frostbite: When you travel thousands of feet into the sky, the air outside is very cold. When a Soldier jumps, they are free-falling at high speeds which makes the cold air “bite” into their skin. Temperatures can average at -50 degrees at that height. Jumpers wear polypropylene underwear and gloves to keep from freezing their skin.

9: Items Carried By Military Free-fall Jumpers: To obtain a Military Free-fall Parachutist Badge, a combat jump requires that a soldier jump with certain items. Here they are:

  • The parachute (duh)

  • An automatic parachute activation device (if a Soldier would be unconscious, this would open the chute automatically)

  • A pack loaded with 50 to 100 pounds of weapons, ammo, and other gear and supplies

  • A helmet

  • Jump boots

  • Gloves

  • A small bottle of oxygen

  • An altimeter (measures elevation)

Unlike the civilians who jump with just basic items, Soldiers have a large amount of items to carry.

military halo badge10: High Speed Drop: To give you some kind of idea just how fast a jumper is traveling when they free-fall jump, an average height when they leave the plane is 35,000 feet. That is about 3,000 feet higher than the highest mountain. The free-fall jumper normally doesn’t open their parachute until they are at 6,000 feet, so they fall 29,000 feet. Estimates say that a free-fall diver is traveling around 130 MPH when the parachute opens.

Final Words

It takes a special breed of person to jump from a plane and free-fall at those speeds. It seems to me that this badge is the least we could give these Soldiers that are willing to jump in this style to help defend our nation.

Do you have the Military Free-fall Parachutist Badge? We would love to hear your experiences and story. Feel free to comment in the section below. Thank you.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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6 thoughts on “Military Free-fall (HALO) Parachutist Badge: 10 Cool Facts”

  1. When did our Army HALO training begin using ram-air chutes? I believe we cranked up HALO training at Ft Bragg in the late 1960s using modified T-10 chutes with a 7 TU cutout to make them more steerable. I read recently that the first official MFF class graduated in 1971. So we’re there any real MFF-qualified personnel before 1971? I seem to recall there was a HALO course at Smoke Bomb Hill taught by the JFKSWC during my time spent over in the 82d. I’m an old retired Army guy, started out in the 82d in 1968, went through its two-week Jumpmaster School and later took up civilian skydiving. This consumed me throughout my 27-year career and when I’d made my last FF, Thailand as it turned out, I’d logged 5,201 FF plus 101 Army static line leaps. Bill J, D-4353.

  2. I forgot to add some info re: the video in my last comment. They were training in that video from a low altitude of 3500-5000 feet, and immediate ‘chute deployment ( also possibly a HAHO, high altitude/high opening training…but at a low altitude). A combat HALO (high altitude/low opening) jump would be done from as high as 35,000-40,000 feet, with cold protective clothing and oxygen, free falling down to approximately 6000 feet, and then opening the ‘chute for the final ground approach. At night the parachute opening would be accomplished by an altimeter, due to an inability to see a ground “rush” without daylight. Combat jumps always include equipment loads of at least 60 pounds, to more than 100 pounds.

  3. Special Operators boots on the ground will not be replaced any time soon. Human intel, human extraction of a high value target, and hostage rescue are all examples of things that cannot be replaced by drones and bots.
    Of course, HALO parachuting, water infiltration, and stealth aircraft all have dangers associated with them, but, its also dangerous to drive your car, cross the street, or be where a terrorist decides to execute a plan. At least our special operators are highly trained to handle all possible problems that can be anticipated in a combat plan. An everyday driver or a citizen with no situational awareness, usually HAS NO PLAN!
    Thank you for your time,
    SnakeEater’67 (3rd Special Forces Group, Airborne)

  4. MJ; I understand what you are saying, but after speaking with many others who thought they would never take the leap, and they did, they claim it is the best experience they have ever had.

    I really doubt drones and robots will completely do away with human special ops. The military will always have a place for this skill.

    Thanks for your comment.

  5. I cannot imagine jumping out of a perfectly good airplane but I understand that achieving a risky jump is necessary to covertly enter unfriendly territory. I wonder if the popularity of drones and robots will eventually make this skill (and nerves of steel) obsolete?

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