To compliment my Army Air Assault School, here is another post to describe my experience at Airborne School. Now, my Airborne experience was very unique and special due to the fact that I acquired a slot and I had so much fun while I was there. I also was fortunate enough to go through the course with two of my Soldiers, which was a great bonus
I was on TDY at Fort Benning, GA for another course when my Soldiers and I inquired about the possibility of going to Airborne school. After all, I was stationed at Fort Benning for the longest time, had gone home and was right back there a few months later. I knew that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do it again if I didn’t try this time. So, we talked with a liaison at the Schoolhouse and determined that even though our unit isn’t Airborne, there may be a chance we could get orders.
Wouldn’t you know that my Platoon Sergeant’s wife actually worked for the Assistant DAG and mentioned that we wanted to go through the course. Next thing we knew NGB had published us orders courtesy of the General. Some may say that this was a slick move but if you were in our position…wouldn’t you do the same thing? Especially if you knew that this would be your only chance to go! Next thing I knew we were standing in formation Day 1.
Ground Week: This was by far my least favorite part of the course. First off is an APFT. Be prepared to pass an APFT based on the 18 year old male scoring regardless what your age is. Good part is that once you hit that minimum rep, they’ll tell you to get up and drive on. They are anal about form though, especially the push-ups. Lots of running (which I truly hate) and “dog and pony show” style activities. Hurry up and wait was the standard order each day and the days were long doing nothing but simply learning how to put on your equipment, learning certain responses to cues and preparing to jump out of the 30-foot towers.
I think the reason I disliked ground week so much was because I wanted to get the ball rolling and jump from a plane! But, I did understand that there was much to be learned. Fortunately I was stuck in a good Platoon with great “Blackhats” who didn’t mess with us much. Between the running and practicing to fall down (PLF= Parachute Landing Falls), I spent most nights relaxing and icing my legs. While Airborne school requires absolutely no mental ability at all, having weekends off was a blessing for recovery.
Tower Week: Tower week ramped up quickly and while the days were long, they were filled with lots of training that was not too bad. The beginning of the week was lots of PT, particularly running. More practice falling down was changed up a bit with the 30-foot tower jumps, which I think is a great training tool. Speaking in hind sight after my jumps, I would say that the tower does a great job replicating what it feels when you jump from the bird. Towards the tail end of jump week was the infamous “Swing trainer” which I believe is something that we should have used to interrogate terrorists in lieu of water-boarding.
These are when your jumps are critically reviewed by your “Sergeant Airborne” and graded so that you can move onto the next phase of training…the Tower! Now, if you have ever driven on Fort Benning you can see the three towers almost from anywhere around main post. I was more nervous to do the tower fall than I was actually jumping from the plane. However, the Blackhats do a great job in making you laugh and relax (in the form of “unique” shapes they carve into the landing zone that you can only see from atop the tower). Once I completed the 30-foot tower jumps though, I was extremely confident and prepared for the Big Tower jumps.
Jump Week: I absolutely hated jump week…well I hated all but about 3-4 hours of jump week. Why, you may ask? Well, for one you wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to run to the chute shed. You get there, get your chute, put it on, get your JMPI and literally SIT THERE and DO NOTHING for HOURS! You would sit there for hours and hours and the finally get the chance to get on the C-130. Now for all you out there…the JUMP is literally the most intense and greatest thing you may ever do in the Army. For the 2 weeks of BS, the hours upon hours in the chute shed that 10-20 seconds in the air made it all worth it! It is really hard to put the experience into words, jumping from a perfectly good aircraft, but it was something that I am glad that I did.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Airborne School was one of my favorite milestones of my Army career. I got to go through the course with some of my Soldiers, jump out of a plane with tanker boots on and opened a lot of doors for myself careers wise. Being Airborne qualified, although I am not currently in an Airborne unit, allows me to pursue careers with units that are. Just another door that opens. If you are ever at Fort Benning or have the opportunity to go, I suggest you do. Regardless if you are afraid of heights or whatever excuse you could think of, just pull up your big boy pants and do it! You won’t regret it!